Image of 5 Marilyn Monroe prints across the top of an old piano

“We did sell the most expensive painting of the 20th century.”

Alex Rotter, chairman of Christie's 20th and 21st century art departments, on the world-famous auction house's sale of Andy Warhol's 'Shot Sage Blue Marilyn' painting of Marilyn Monroe; the piece sold to an unnamed buyer for a final price of just over $195 million on Monday.

Published on

may 10, 2022

  • Why It Matters: The sale of Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn silk-screen painting sold for $195,040,000 — the highest price of any American artwork sold at auction. This was also the most expensive 20th century piece of art ever sold.
    • The painting was one of several brought to Christie's from the collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann, Swiss siblings who were dealers and collectors of art. Thomas passed away in 1993; Doris passed away last year.
    • After auction house fees, all proceeds from their collection — which Christie's calls "one of the finest ever to come to market" — will be donated to charities that help improve the lives of underprivileged children by way of the recently established Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation. The Foundation's chairman shared: "The Ammann art collection is so strong, that one obvious option would have been for Doris to leave behind a museum. But she never wanted that. She wanted the family's legacy to help other people."
  • Interesting To Note: For the painting, Warhol — a leading 20th-century American artist — took inspiration from a promotional photograph from Monroe's movie Niagara. The painting is one of five he created of Marilyn in 1964.
    • What happened to the other four? The story goes that a woman came into Warhol's Factory studio with a pistol and asked if she could shoot the paintings. Thinking the woman meant to take a photograph, Warhol said yes. The woman proceeded to pull a gun out of her purse and shot at the stack of Marilyn paintings, which have since been restored. Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was the only painting that wasn't in the stack, thus saved from any damage.
  • Something To Consider: Though the sale of the painting broke records, some had speculated the painting could have sold for up to $400 million. Art advisor Abigail Asher explained: "Expectation was very, very, very high. It was an incredibly healthy price, but at the same time I believe the buyer got a deal. It's one of the icons of 20th century art."
  • Still, $195 million could buy you several private islands. Hummingbird Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, is currently on the market for $35 million. Another 220-acre private island in the Bahamas, complete with its own marina, deep water harbor and 38 buildings (incl. a restaurant), is listed at $60 million.

Warhol's $195 million Marilyn fuels the Ammann collection to $318 million and counting (Christie's)

Warhol's 'Marilyn,' at $195 Million, Shatters Auction Record for an American Artist (The New York Times)

'Eagles' eyes for excellence': the shared vision of Thomas and Doris Ammann (Christie's)

Warhol's Blue Marilyn sells for record-smashing $195m at Christie's auction of Swiss dealers' collection (The Art Newspaper)

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