Andy Warhol’s $195 Million Portrait Of Marilyn Monroe Breaks Record For Most Expensive American Artwork

Updated May 10, 2022, 10:08am EDT
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Pop artist Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe is now the most expensive piece of artwork by an American artist ever sold at auction, after the colorful silk screen sold for a record-breaking $195 million including fees on Monday.

Key Facts

“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” surpassed the previous most expensive piece of art by an American to sell at auction, a $110.5 million painting by Warhol’s own friend and frequent collaborator Jean-Michel Basquiat that was snapped up by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa at a Sotheby’s auction in 2017.

The portrait also shattered the previous record for a work by Warhol at auction, the $105.4 million paid in 2013 for “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster),” and lines up with the sky-high prices Warhol pieces are said to fetch on the private market.

The winning $170 million bid was made in the salesroom by art dealer Larry Gagosian, from whom the Ammanns originally purchased the “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” in 1986, although it’s unclear if Gagosian purchased the work for himself or a client.

“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” brought in slightly below its $200 million pre-sale estimate, which Christie’s said was the highest of any artwork to ever appear at auction.

The screenprint was sold as part of an auction of the private art collection of Doris and Thomas Ammann, the late Swiss art dealer siblings who were close friends of Warhol’s.


Andy Warhol has remained a pop culture icon more than three decades after his death in 1987. He and his work are the subject of a recent cultural resurgence that includes the February release of a Ryan Murphy-produced docuseries based on Warhol’s memoirs on Netflix, the opening of least three on-stage productions about Warhol’s life in New York and London and last year’s exhibit about Warhol’s life and Catholic faith at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Later this year, the Supreme Court will decide if a print Warhol created based on a photographer’s image of the singer Prince violated copyright law.

Big Number

$450 million. That’s how much Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for in 2017 to become the most expensive artwork to ever sold at auction. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was identified as the buyer by U.S. intelligence, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Salvator Mundi” had a pre-sale auction estimate of $100 million.

Key Background

Warhol created “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” in 1964—two years after Monroe’s sudden death—using a promotional photo from the actor’s 1953 film Niagara and gave the actress a pink face, blue eyeshadow and red lips against a sage background. The work is one of Warhol’s coveted “Shot Marilyns,” a series of canvases featuring the star’s portrait in an array of colors, some of which were shot in the forehead with a single bullet by a visitor to Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory, according to legend. Reported owners of the “Shot Marilyns” canvases have included casino and resort billionaire Steve Wynn, industrialist and publisher Peter Brant, hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, billionaire Greek shipping heir Philip Niarchos and the late publisher S. I. Newhouse Jr. Proceeds from Monday’s auction will go toward the Ammanns’ eponymous foundation that supports children’s charities, and Christie’s said the winning bidder can nominate the nonprofit of their choice to receive 20% of the proceeds from the screenprint, subject to the foundation’s final approval.

Further Reading

Andy Warhol’s Portrait Of Marilyn Monroe Could Fetch Record $200 Million (Forbes)

The Andy Warhol Diaries: Artist’s Images Of Famous Friends Fetch More Than $1 Million At Auction (Forbes)

Supreme Court Takes Up Copyright Case Involving Andy Warhol’s Prints Of Singer Prince (Forbes)

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