Record sale insight for the next Andy Warhol in New York
Weather report records expected on the art market, Christie’s will sell on Monday 9 May a portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol which could go for 200 million USD, making it the most expensive work of art of the 20th century ever sold at auction.
The other New York house, Sotheby’s, is not to be outdone, as it will be selling a billion dollars worth of contemporary and modern art, including a second lot from the renowned Macklowe collection, from May 16.
Sotheby’s, which moved from London to New York and is owned since 2019 by the French-Israeli telecom magnate Patrick Drahi, had crushed everything in November by totalling 676 million USD in sales in a single evening, just with the first lot of this Macklowe collection.
Sotheby’s was 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).
“Without a doubt, the enthusiasm is unprecedented,” says Joan Robledo-Palop, collector and CEO of Zeit Contemporary Art.
The year 2021 was already a record year with, for example, 7.3 billion USD in sales for Sotheby’s.
Many experts say that the COVID-19 pandemic – which brought New York to its knees in 2020 – may have wiped out in-person auctions, but not the appetite and money of buyers, especially from New York and Asia.
Moreover, the new market of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), digital objects certified unique thanks to blockchain technology, are considered the new golden goose.
When Christie’s, owned – via its investment company Artemis – by François Pinault, a very large French fortune, boasts that the painting Shot Sage Blue Marilyn painted in 1964 by Andy Warhol is “the most important painting of the twentieth century to be sold at auction in a generation”.
The well-known image of Marilyn Monroe, an American actress and world icon with a tragic fate (1926-1962), belongs to the Zurich-based Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation (a brother and sister), which will dedicate the proceeds of the sale “to charity” for “health and education programs” for children around the world, according to Christie’s.
As a reminder, the four works Shot Marilyns, including this Shot Sage Blue Marilyn – a square of one meter on a side – take their names from an incident that occurred in 1964 in the studio of Andy Warhol in Manhattan: a woman asked the artist if she could “shoot” the paintings.
Christie’s specialists even compare this image of a smiling Marilyn – the original photo of which was taken from Henry Hathaway’s film Niagara – to the mysterious smile of “the Mona Lisa”, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
In the case of “around 200 million USD” as Christie’s hopes, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn will break all records for an auction of 20th-century art. Ahead of Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (version 0) (179.4 million USD in May 2015) and Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude (170.4 million in November 2015) also sold at Christie’s.
According to a ranking, the absolute record – all periods combined – for a work of art sold at auction is held by Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, sold in November 2017 for 450.3 million USD by Christie’s.
Christie’s will also sell three Claude Monets this week, including a version of his Water Lilies and Parliament, Sunset,” for some USD 60 million each. The same astronomical amount for two Mark Rothko, one at Christie’s and the other at Sotheby’s.
“This season is one of those unique moments” that happens only once “in a decade”, said Alex Rotter, head of 20th and 21st-century sales at Christie’s.