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This Marilyn Monroe Portrait is The Most Expensive 20th Century Artwork

The iconic Marilyn Monroe portrait known as Shot Sage Blue Marilyn has sold for a record 195 million USD at Christie’s auction. The painting was made by US pop artist Andy Warhol in 1964, two years after the actor’s death. It was one of his best-known portraits, and now it has smashed all records by selling for 170 million USD plus taxes and fees. It has become the most expensive piece of 20th-century art sold at an auction.

The Story Behind Marilyn Monroe Portrait

According to reports, a US art dealer Larry Gagosian bought the famous Marilyn Monroe portrait in less than 4 minutes of bidding. It is the highest amount paid for any work of art by an American artist. There’s also a story behind the title of this painting.

According to the folk-lore, a notorious performance artist Dorothy Podber visited Warhol in his studio, where he was keeping 5 portraits of Marilyn Monroe in different background colours. She asked Warhol if she could “shoot” them, which he thought would be regarding photography, so he agreed. But Podber took out a gun and shot them all in the head. The story said that she was only able to hit 4. Ever since, those artworks have been known as ‘Shot Marilyns’.

The recently sold portrait and three others were later repaired but retained their name. The rest of the ‘Shot Marilyns’ are owned by the American art collectors Peter Brant, Steven A. Cohen, and Kenneth Griffin.

Worth More than Picasso

Before the sale of this Marilyn Monroe portrait, the 1955 Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) by Picasso held the record for the most expensive 20th-century painting. It was reportedly sold for 179.4 million USD in 2015. The sale also broke the record of the most expensive American art sold at auction. It was previously held by 1982 skull painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Warhol’s competitor/friend. Reportedly, it was sold for 110.5 million USD in 2017.

The all-time world record for any piece of art from any era sold at auction is still held by Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci and his group. It was sold for 450.3 million USD in 2017.

Absolute Pinnacle of American Pop

Christie’s auction called Warhol’s Marilyn as an absolute pinnacle of American pop and the promise of the American Dream that sums up optimism, celebrity, fragility, and iconography at the same time. Warhol used Monroe’s real promotional photo from the 1953 film Niagara for his inspiration. Veteran artist George Frei described the painting as “a witness to Monroe’s undiminished visual power in the new millennium”. He added Monroe might be gone, and terrible circumstances of her death might be forgotten, but her enigmatic smile in the portrait will live on forever.

The emblem of the 50s sexual revolution, Marilyn Monroe, reportedly died due to a drug overdose in 1962. She appeared in 29 Hollywood films, including Don’t Bother to Knock, Some Like it Hot, Let’s Make Love, and All About Eve. Although her personal and professional lives were subjects of controversy, she remained the most enduring icon for all these years. Her takes on sexual relationships, career, happiness, and success were an inspiration for generations to come.

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