Warhol's Marilyn

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol - $200m at Christie’s New York in May.

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Poised to be the most expensive 20th century artwork to ever sell at auction, it is estimated to sell for around $200m.

This 1964 version of Marilyn comes to Christie’s from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation with all proceeds benefiting the Zurich children’s charity.

The Ammann siblings were founders of Thomas Ammann Fine Art, a storied gallery in Zurich that championed artists from the Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary era. Cy Twombly and Brice Marden were among their closest friends.

Christie’s press release announcing the sale was not short on superlatives. The portrait is described as ‘an unmatched example of 20th century art by the most important American artist’ while Alex Rotter, Christie’s 20th and 21st century art chairman adds that standing alongside Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Warhol’s Marilyn is categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time.”

Warhol first began creating acrylic on linen silkscreens of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe following her death in August 1962. While he created multiple versions, this is one of five different coloured versions made in 1964 using a more refined and time-intensive screen printing technique. They take their name from a famous story: when ‘bad girl’ performance artist Dorothy Podber saw four Marilyns stacked in Warhol's studio, she pulled a pistol from her handbag and put a bullet hole into the canvases. The canvases were restored and Podber barred from returning.

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 privately sold for a sum close to that which Christie’s is asking for its version in sage blue.

A sale at the dizzying height of $200m would double the current auction record for a Warhol - $105m for Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) sold at Sotheby’s in 2013 – and would eclipse the previous high for 20th century art at auction - Pablo Picasso's 1955 Women of Algiers sold for $179.4m in 2015.