Andy Warhol’s Marilyn: The New Icon of the 20th Century

The silkscreen entitled “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” from 1964 will come to auction in May in New York. The auction house Christie’s just published the estimation which is a sensation: 200 million US-Dollar are expected for the silkscreen. Why is the estimation so high as there are several versions of Monroe’s portraits in different colours and sizes?

Andy Warhol started his portrait series of the American actress just after her death in 1962. There are four special aspects why this work got the high estimate:

1.) The work will be sold by the Swiss Foundation “Thomas-und-Doris-Ammann” in Zurich which was founded in 2021 after Dors Ammann, the legendary art dealer and Thomas Ammann’s sister, died. Thomas Ammann had founded his gallery in 1977 and quickly became one of the most known art dealers of his time. He became Andy Warhol`s friend and edited the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings, silkscreens, sculptures and works on papers. It is not known to the public when the Monroe silkscreen became part of the Ammann collection. For sure is that it has not been resold since the work was bought by Thomas or Doris Amman. This “market-freshness” is one of the most important reasons for the high estimate.

2.) The silkscreen is part of the series “The Shot Marilyn” from 1964. Andy Warhol made five works for this series but only four of them were shot. How did this happen? Dorothy Prodber, a visitor at Warhol’s Factory in 1964, asked Warhol if she could shot the four Marilyns which were stacked against the wall. Warhol agreed as he thought Prodber would like to take a photo. But she took out a revolver and shot a hole in the four stacked works. The fifth (the turqouise one) was the only one remaining unshot. So the “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” is a rarity of only four silkscreens with this remarkable hole in the canvas which has finally been restored.

3) The three other “Shot Marilyns” in red, green and orange are today all in private collections. But not in any private collections: All the other works plus the unshot light blue work belonged and still belong to some of the most impressive collectors of the 20th and 21st centurey. The owners are Peter Brant, Philippe Niarchos, Steven Cohen and Kenneth Griffin – among the previous owners of the Marilyns you find Karl Ströher, Leon Kraushar, Masao Wanibuchi, Si Newhouse and Stefan Edlis. All these men have and had great impact on the development of the art market of the last decades.

4.) The last reason why the “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” got this high estimate is that the orange version of the series was publically sold at auction in 1998 for only $ 17 million, but then sold again to Kenneth Griffin for a rumored $ 250 million in 2017. Now five years later it makes sense that this price might be realised at a public auction as well – especially as the sage blue version has never been auctioned before.

Let’s see which price the sage blue Mariyn will achieve in May. Good to know is that all revenues from the sale will be donated to charitable purposes.

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