The Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by American art icon Andy Warhol, became the most expensive of all his paintings, when it was sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for USD 195 million. The price realised by it, also made the painting, the most expensive 20th century artwork ever, surpassing Pablo Picasso’s 1955 artwork Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’), which was sold for USD 179.4 million at a Christie’s auction in 2015.
The artwork depicts screen icon Marylin Monroe, against a sage blue background. The picture of Monroe is based on promotional material for her film Niagara (1953) and portrays the Hollywood star with her distinctive mole.
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The enigmatic Andy Warhol and his most expensive paintings ever sold
Andy Warhol was born on 6 August 1928. During his long and illustrious career, Warhol was influenced by (and counter-influenced as well) everything from art to films to music. Some of the subjects of his most famous works are connected to the world of entertainment, like Monroe, Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando.
Warhol is best known as a legend in pop art — a movement that took off in the 1960s. Using a cheap and quick commercial printing technique, he mass-produced silkscreen versions of photographs and other imagery. He also pioneered computer-generated art on Amiga computers in 1985, two years before his death on 22 February 1987.
Besides art, Warhol also made films. Some of his best known movies are Eat (1963), My Hustler (1965), Lupe (1966) and Blue Movie (1969).
Race Riot (in Four Parts) (USD 62.8m)
The painting, using acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, was created by Warhol in 1964 and auctioned by Christie’s in 2014. Warhol created the pop art in three different colours from an original photograph taken by Charles Moore, which depicted the oppression of African American community members during the race riots of May 1963, in the US. Moore’s picture, which shows a police dog attacking an African American man, was first published in Life magazine on 17 May, the same year.
Describing Warhole’s adaptation of the photo, auction house Christie’s wrote, “Like the story of Moore’s photographs, Warhol’s startling silkscreened paintings pose important questions about the nature and function of media imagery, about how we see and react to the news and how its images can also be used to provoke and manipulate us. How, also, the power of even the most shocking and provocative of ‘realist’ imagery disintegrates under constant repetition or alternatively, how the same images can be employed, as in advertising, to manipulate an audience and even government policy into any given direction.”
Men In Her Life (USD 63.4m)
Created in 1962, Men in Her Life is about Elizabeth Taylor and her relationships. It is also among one of the earliest silkscreen paintings by Warhol.
The painting is one of the only four in the similarly named series and is also one of the only two of the series, rendered in a large-scale, multi-image format. Of the four, this painting is the largest.
Men in Her Life was auctioned by Phillips in 2010.
Four Marlons (USD 69.6m)
Four Marlons is the name of the painting, featuring four identical impressions of Hollywood legend Marlon Brando, in a checkered black-and-white pattern. Like the others, Warhol used his silkscreen method, on unprimed linen, to make the painting in 1966.
Sold by Christie’s in 2014, the painting is based on Brando’s appearance in the 1953 film The Wild One, in which the actor played a biker gang leader named Johnny Strabler. Warhol had used the same picture for his 1963 painting Silver Marlon, which, as the name suggests, shows Brando’s character on a silver ground.
Green Car Crash (Burning Green Car I) (USD 71.7m)
This painting was created by Warhol between the years 1962 and 1964 and is about multiple prints of an image of an overturned car. Also, smoke can be seen billowing from it.
Auction house Christie’s, which sold the painting in 2007, said in its lot essay that it is “a haunting work whose macabre and endlessly puzzling imagery startles with its stark and repetitive photographic presentation of a mundane suburban street shockingly transformed into a horrific disaster scene bordering on that of a surrealistic nightmare.”
The painting is part of Warhol’s Death and Disaster corpus. There are six different ‘car crashes’ documented by the artist based on a many accidents.
“Warhol’s Car Crashes remain among the most powerful, challenging and provocative paintings made by any artist in the Post-War era,” said Christie’s.
Turquoise Marilyn (USD 80m)
Turquoise Marilyn is one of the five 40 inch by 40 inch paintings, comprising the The Shot Marilyns series, each of which is made from the same image of Marilyn Monroe. Each of the paintings has a different colour scheme — red, orange, light blue, turquoise and sage blue.
One day, Warhol’s associate shot at the stack of paintings, driving a bullet hole, through the forehead of all but the Turquoise Marilyn. The other four were repaired.
Created in 1962, the silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas, was painted after Monroe’s suicide. It was reportedly sold to billionaire art collector Steven Cohen in 2007.
Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] (USD 81.9)
As the name suggests, this artwork features music legend Elvis Presley in three identical black-and-white pictures. Warhol created the 2.1-metre-tall artwork in 1963. It is based on a publicity image of Elvis Presley, from his film Flaming Star (1960). This is why it is set in a silver background, as a tribute to the silver screen that Elvis graced.
The three Elvis appear side-by-side, striking what Christie’s describes as a “confident posture, with Elvis staring directly out of the canvas with his famous ‘baby blue’ eyes.”
The artwork was auctioned in 2014.
Eight Elvises (USD 100 million)
One of the most expensive Andy Warhol paintings ever sold, Eight Elvises is a silkscreen print painting, also created in 1963 like Triple Elvis [Ferus Type].
But instead of three, there are eight images of Elvis Presley side-by-side on a long canvas. It was once part of the 11 metre canvas containing 16 copies of the music icon. The photo used in Eight Elvises is the same as that was used in Triple Elvis [Ferus Type]. The Eight Elvises is 3.6 metres in height and is the only one of its kind, unlike the 22 versions of Double Elvis [Ferus Type] featuring two images of Elvis.
Eight Elvises was sold in a private auction via Philippe Ségalot and is believed to have been bought by the State of Qatar.
Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (USD 105 Million)
Another masterpiece from his Death and Disaster series, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) is considered one of the greatest works of art by Warhol.
It is composed of two canvases, both measuring over 2.4 metres in height and a combined width of 3.9 metres. It is also one of the only seven Warhol pieces in a double-canvas format. The artwork has the colour silver, which dominates the canvas. Sotheby’s, the auction house which sold the artwork in 2013, said that the silver provided “the expansive surface with a constantly adjusting, reflective quality that is absent from the single color acrylic grounds of the other paintings.”
Till before the sale of Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, the Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) was the most expensive Andy Warhol painting ever sold.
(Main image: Courtesy of Christie’s; Featured image: Courtesy of Christie’s/@ChristiesInc/Twitter)