May 29, 2023

Andy Warhol’s 1964 Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, a forty-by-forty-inch silkscreen portrait of Marilyn Monroe, sold for roughly $195 million at an auction held by Christie’s in New York City last night. The amount is the highest ever paid at auction for a work by an American artist, eclipsing the $110.5 million fetched by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 Untitled in 2017. Prior to the sale of the Basquiat painting—whose price remains the highest ever fetched for a work by a Black artist—the record-high figure belonged to another Warhol work, Double Disaster, 1963, which brought $104.5 million in 2013. The figure achieved by Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, which depicts the iconic actress wearing blue eye shadow against a pale aqua ground, is the highest attained by any twentieth-century work at auction, according to the Associated Press.

Larry Gagosian was revealed to be the buyer of the canvas, which was offered as part of an estate sale of Swiss brother-and-sister dealers Thomas and Doris Amann; the mega gallerist snapped up the work in under four minutes of bidding. The funds generated by the sale will go to support the Ammann Foundation, which focuses on health care and educational programs for children. Gagosian has not yet revealed whether he was acting on his own behalf or that of a client. Artnet News reports that in landing in Gagosian’s hands, the work comes full circle: Gagosian sold it to Thomas Amman in 1986.

Interestingly, the record-breaking sale represents a figure far below the $400 million the work had been expected to fetch, with the New York Times noting that the auctioneer appeared to “wring the bids” despite the exceedingly brief time between call and hammer fall. “It was an incredibly healthy price, but at the same time I believe the buyer got a deal,” art adviser Abigail Asher told the paper. Numerous sources credit the stock market’s recent slide with chilling auction prices. Philip Hoffman, founder of the New York–based advisory company Fine Art Group, remains positive regarding the art market’s prospects. “There’s been a huge amount held back for two years, and there’s a huge amount of pent-up demand” from buyers, he told the Times. “The right moment has come.”


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