A famous Andy Warhol silkscreen featuring Marilyn Monroe sold for $195 million at Christie’s charity auction Monday night, setting the record for the most expensive piece of American art ever sold.
The iconic Warhol painting broke the previous record set by the late Brooklyn artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 untitled skull painting, which fetched $110.5 million dollars at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2017. Warhol held the record before Basquiat after his 1963 work. “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” sold for $105.4 million in 2013.
The auction house estimated Warhol’s 1964 painting before the incident was worth $200 million. The identity of the winning bidder was not immediately disclosed.
All proceeds from Lot 36A will go to the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, which put the painting up for auction. The Foundation aims to help children with health care and educational programs.
With red lips on a blue background, the image of the beloved actress has been exhibited in museums around the world.
The painting has a fascinating backstory. One of five silkscreens originally painted in 1964, the 40-by-40-inch prints were stored in a stack at Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory.
According to Artie, the performance artist, Dorothy Podber, stopped by to ask if she could “shoot” them, and she said yes, assuming she meant the camera. Podber took out a revolver and shot all but the turquoise print in the forehead.
Warhol had restored four of the paintings and became known as “Shot Merlin”.
All the five paintings have been sold for different amounts over the years. First, in 1967, the blue background painting sold for $5,000. Orange Background sold for $17.3 million in 1998, then went to hedge fund manager Ken Griffin for a rumored over $200 million.
“‘Shot Sage Blue Merlin’ is the absolute pinnacle of American pop,” said Alex Rotter, president of 20th and 21st Century Art at Christie’s, of the piece. “The painting transcends the genre of portraiture, leaving behind the art and culture of the 20th century. Standing alongside Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, Warhol’s ‘Merlin’ is one of the greatest paintings of all time.