Say it out loud and hold the “m” for effect when you say it: One hundred ninety five million dollars.
Yes, a record-breaking $195 million.
That’s the amount paid at a Monday night sale of Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” (1964). It’s the most ever paid for a 20th-century artwork at auction. Christie’s held the sale to kick off the spring auction season and predicted a $200 million sale of the work, and they almost hit on the number.
Proceeds from the sale benefit the new Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zürich,
described in a press release as “dedicated to improving the lives of children the world over by establishing support systems centered on providing healthcare and educational programs.”
“Andy Warhol’s picture of Marilyn, surely now more famous than the photograph (an original publicity still for the 1953 film Niagara by Henry Hathaway) on which it is based, bears witness to her undiminished visual power in the new millennium,” said Georg Frei, chairman of the board at the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, in a press release.
The winning bid of $195,040,000 was placed by Larry Gagosian on behalf of an unnamed buyer. The work is part of the Shot Marilyns series – so called for the participation of East Village performance artist Dorothy Podber. The “Shot” in the name refers to the fact that the works were shot by Podber with a pistol.
One day in 1964, Podber visited Warhol at the Factory, his New York studio. Podber asked Warhol if she could “shoot” a stack of Warhol’s newly-finished Marilyn Monroe silkscreens. Naturally, Warhol assumed Podber wanted to photograph them – not shoot them with a pistol, which is what she did.
An interesting sidebar here: Podber is rarely described as a collaborator, which she most certainly is. And you can even make a case that she co-authored the famous work.
So the most expensive work 20th-century work ever sold at auction isn’t exactly unblemished. It’s got a bullet hole in it.
Fascinating. And forever a part of Warhol and artwork lore.