Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portrait could fetch record $200 million at auction

NEW YORK — An iconic piece of Americana is headed for the auction block at Christie’s this May in New York, and it could also be headed for the record books.

The 1964 Andy Warhol silk-screen of Marilyn Monroe, known as “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” could sell for as much as $200 million, making it the most expensive 20th-century artwork ever sold at auction, The New York Times reported.

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The 3-foot square depicts a promotional photo from the film “Niagara,” but Warhol transformed the Hollywood teaser into a pop-art masterpiece, giving Monroe a “bubblegum-pink face, ruby lips and blue eye shadow set against a sage-blue background,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the newspaper, the work is part of Warhol’s signature “Shot Marilyn” portrait series, so called after a “gun-toting visitor allegedly fired a shot into a stack of canvases in the artist’s studio in 1964.

“The most significant 20th-century painting to come to auction in a generation, Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ is the absolute pinnacle of American Pop and the promise of the American dream, encapsulating optimism, fragility, celebrity and iconography all at once,” Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman for 20th- and 21st-century art, said in a prepared statement.

Rotter also called the work “one of the greatest paintings of all time,” likening it to the Mona Lisa, Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”

According to the Times, the painting comes to Christie’s via the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which supports health care and educational programs for children. All proceeds from the sale will benefit the foundation, potentially staging the highest-grossing philanthropic auction since the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller at Christie’s in 2018, the newspaper reported.

“The spectacular portrait isolates the person and the star,” Georg Frei, the foundation’s chairman, said in a prepared statement.

“Marilyn the woman is gone; the terrible circumstances of her life and death are forgotten. All that remains is the enigmatic smile that links her to another mysterious smile of a distinguished lady, the Mona Lisa,” he added.