The portrait of Marilyn Monroe “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” by Andy Warhol, up for auction on May 9, at Christie’s auction house headquarters in New York on April 29, 2022 (AFP/Angela Weiss)
Rain of new records in sight on the very lucrative art market in New York: the house Christie’s will sell on Monday a portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol which could leave for 200 million dollars, which would make it the work of most expensive 20th century art ever sold at auction.
The great New York competitor, Sotheby’s, is not to be outdone since it will sell from May 16 for a billion dollars of contemporary and modern works of art, including a second batch of the very famous collection Maclowe.
Sotheby’s, which has moved from London to New York and has been owned since 2019 by Franco-Israeli telecom mogul Patrick Drahi, smashed it all in November by totaling $676 million in sales in a single evening with the first batch of this Macklowe collection.
It had been put on the market following the divorce of the wealthy couple formed by Harry Macklowe, a real estate developer, and Linda Burg, an honorary administrator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met).
A self-portrait by Andy Warhol, belonging to the Macklowe collection, presented on May 6, 2022 in New York ahead of its auction by Sotheby’s ( AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY )
“Without a doubt, the enthusiasm is unprecedented,” said Joan Robledo-Palop, collector and CEO of Zeit Contemporary Art, to AFP.
The year 2021 was already that of all records with, for example, 7.3 billion dollars in sales for Sotheby’s.
– Appetite and money –
Experts believe that the Covid-19 pandemic — which brought New York to its knees in 2020 — certainly wiped out in-person auctions but not the appetite and money of buyers, especially New Yorkers and Asians.
In addition, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), digital objects certified as unique thanks to blockchain technology, are considered the new goose that lays the golden egg.
At Christie’s, property – via its investment company Artémis – of François Pinault, a very large French fortune, we pride ourselves that the painting “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” painted in 1964 by Andy Warhol is “the most important painting in the 20th century to be auctioned off in a generation”.
Mark Rothko’s painting “Untitled”, up for auction from May 16, in New York on May 6, 2022 (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
The famous image of Marilyn Monroe, American actress and world icon with a tragic destiny (1926-1962), belongs to the Zurich foundation Thomas and Doris Ammann (a brother and a sister), which will devote the proceeds of the sale “to a work of charity” for children’s “health and education programs” around the world, according to Christie’s.
In the pure New York tradition of philanthropic sales.
For the anecdote –and the legend–, the four “Shot Marilyns” works, including this “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” —a one meter square– take their names from an incident that occurred in 1964 in Andy Warhol’s studio in Manhattan: a woman asking the artist if she could “photograph” the paintings (“shoot” in English) shot them with a revolver.
– Marilyn and the Mona Lisa –
Christie’s experts even compare this image of smiling Marilyn — whose original photo was taken from Henry Hathaway’s film +Niagara+– to the mysterious smile of “the Mona Lisa”, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
“The Grand Canal and Santa Maria della Salute” by Claude Monet presented on May 6, 2022 in New York in view of its auction by Sotheby’s ( AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY )
If it goes “around 200 million dollars” as Christie’s hopes, the “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” will break all records for an auction of 20th century works of art. Ahead of “The Women of Algiers (version 0)” by Pablo Picasso (179.4 million dollars in May 2015) and the “Nu reclining” by Amedeo Modigliani (170.4 million in November 2015) also sold at Christie’s.
According to a ranking established by AFP, the absolute record – all periods combined – for a sale of works of art at auction is held by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, sold in November 2017 for 450, $3 million by Christie’s.
The house will also sell three Claude Monets this week, including a version of his “Water Lilies” and “Parliament, Setting Sun”, for some $60 million each. Same astronomical amount for two Mark Rothkos, one at Christie’s and the other at Sotheby’s.
“This season is one of those unique moments” that only happens “once a decade,” Alex Rotter, head of 20th and 21st century sales at Christie’s, told AFP.