NEW YORK. – An iconic painting of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol has been auctioned for $195m (£158.17m) – making it the most expensive piece of 20th Century art ever sold.
The painting, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, was painted by Warhol in 1964 using a famous photograph as inspiration.
The amount is also the highest ever paid for an American work of art.
The Christie’s auction in New York was widely seen as a symbol of the luxury art market’s health.
Ahead of the auction, Christie’s wrote that the painting is “one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence”, with a selling price “in the region” of $200m.
The auction ended with a sale price of $170m, which rose to $195m with taxes and fees taken into account.
The previous record price for a piece of American artwork was $110.5m for a skull painting created in 1982 by Warhol’s sometimes friend and sometimes competitor, Jean-Michael Basquiat.
The final price also smashes the previous record for a 20th Century work of art, set in 2015 when a 1955 painting by Pablo Picasso – Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) – sold for $179.4m, including fees.
In March, George Frei, the chairman of the board of the Thomas and Doris Amman Foundation, said in a statement that the painting of Monroe “bears witness to her undiminished visual power in the new millennium”.
“Marilyn the woman is gone; the terrible circumstances of her life and death are forgotten,” Mr Frei said. “All that remains is the enigmatic smile that links her to another mysterious smile of a distinguished lady, the Mona Lisa.”
Bloomberg reports that the winning bidder was US art dealer Larry Gagosian, who owns a chain of art galleries.
According to Christie’s, all the proceeds of the sale will go to the Switzerland-based Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which works to establish healthcare and education programmes for children around the world.
The auction on Monday is the first of a series of art auctions planned by Christie’s and Sotheby’s over the next two weeks, widely considered to be a test of the luxury art market’s health in the post-pandemic era.
Philip Hoffman, the founder of New York-based advisory company the Fine Art Group, told the New York Times that there is a “huge amount of pent-up demand” for art.
“Everybody was waiting for the right moment,” he said. “And the right moment has come.” – BBC Entertainment.