Andy Warhol's iconic 1964 portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, is coming to auction with a $200 million price tag.
If it meets that estimate, it will become the most expensive 20th-century artwork to ever sell at auction when Christie's offers it as part of its Marquee Week in May.
Christie's said that the silkscreen image of Monroe is an unmatched example of 20th-century art by the most important American artist, and one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence.
The work comes to auction from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, with all proceeds of the sale benefitting the foundation, which helps children with healthcare and educational programs.
“The spectacular portrait isolates the person and the star: Marilyn the woman is gone; the terrible circumstances of her life and death are forgotten,” Greg Frei, chairman of the foundation’s board, said in Christie's press release. “All that remains is the enigmatic smile that links her to another mysterious smile of a distinguished lady, the Mona Lisa.”
Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is one of five similar portraits of Monroe created by the artist in 1964. Each features a different background color: red, orange, light blue, sage blue and turquoise. Four of the five (excluding the turquoise) are known collectively as The Shot Marilyns in honor of an infamous incident that took place at the Factory, Warhol’s New York City studio, in the fall of 1964, when performance artist Dorothy Podber shot the four stacked canvases with a revolver.
“The most significant 20th-century painting to come to auction in a generation, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn is the absolute pinnacle of American Pop and the promise of the American Dream encapsulating optimism, fragility, celebrity and iconography all at once. The painting transcends the genre of portraiture in America, superseding 20th century art and culture," said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st century art. "Standing alongside Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Warhol’s Marilyn is categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time and a once in a generation opportunity to present this masterpiece publicly at auction.”
A handful of paintings, including works by Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, have sold for excess of $200 million in private sales. But only one painting has passed that mark at auction: Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for over $450 million at Christie's in 2017 and has been the subject of much debate in the art world.