Although selling below the estimated $200m, the $170m (£136m) – or $195m (£158.5m) with fees – stands only behind the $400m (£304.2m) for Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi sold in the same rooms in 2017.
As well as an auction record for a 20th century artwork, it was also a new high for any American picture when it was knocked down to dealer Larry Gagosian according to Bloomberg.
Titled Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, the 40in (1.02m) square acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen was part of a dedicated sale of works consigned by the estate of the Swiss dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann. The 36-lot auction raised a premium-inclusive total of $317.8m (£258.4m) with all of the proceeds going to their health and educational foundation.
The painting itself was based on a promotional photo of the actress from the film Niagara. Warhol first began creating acrylic on linen silkscreens of Monroe following her death in August 1962 but, while he created multiple versions, this example was one of five different coloured versions made in 1964 using a more refined and time-intensive screen printing technique.
This series of works is called Warhol’s Shot Marilyn portraits, taking its name from an incident when performance artist Dorothy Podber visited Warhol’s Factory studio and, pulling a pistol from her handbag, put a bullet hole into four of the canvases. The canvases were restored and Podber was barred from returning. The work at Christie’s was the one not pierced by the bullet.
Back in 1989, Christie's sold Shot Red Marilyn for $4.01m, a painting that in 1994 was sold again for $3.6m. Shot Orange Marilyn from the series sold at Sotheby's in 1998 for $17.3m and is thought to have since been sold privately for a sum close to the $200m which Christie’s had hoped for its sage blue version.
The previous auction record for a Warhol was the $94m (£61.5m) for Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) sold at Sotheby’s in 2013, while the previous high for a piece of 20th century art was Pablo Picasso's 1955 Women of Algiers sold for $160m (£108.1m) in 2015.
£1 = $1.23