The Warhol portrait, described by Christie’s art expert Alex Rotter as “one of the greatest paintings of all time,” sold in about four minutes of bidding to dealer Larry Gagosian. It was unclear on whose behalf he was bidding. A Christie’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Monday.
Monday night’s sale marked the start of New York’s spring auction season, which is coming back to life after a two-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The record sale was set as investors seek safe investments such as art amid uncertainty in global financial markets fueled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Before the auction, the portrait was expected to fetch $400 million. The total price was finally $195,040,000.
According to Christie’s, the news of Monroe’s death on August 5, 1962 “struck a chord with Warhol,” who began featuring her in his work soon after, using a publicity photo cropped from the film “Niagara.”
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Warhol’s series of screenprints of the actress, each painted with a different background color, became famous after a fellow artist, Dorothy Podber, walked into his studio in September 1964 and shot the stack of prints with a gun. gun. (Warhol himself was seriously injured in a shooting in 1968. He died in 1987 of a heart attack.)
Accounts of the Podber episode vary: some say it was a misunderstanding over the words “shoot”, which Warhol apparently understood as a request from Podber to photograph his work; others have described the play on words as deliberate, Christie’s said in a pre-auction review of the work.
The works in Monday’s auction were from the estate of Swiss art dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann. Proceeds from art sales will go to his charitable foundation.