The 40-square-inch “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” one of dozens of images the artist made of Monroe in the 1960s, will go on sale in New York this May, the auction house announced Monday.
Warhol’s colorful reproductions of the Hollywood star’s portrait — originally a publicity still from her 1953 movie “Niagara” — are among his most recognizable works, alongside his signature paintings of Campbell’s soup cans.
American Pop artist Andy Warhol pictured at his New York studio, the Factory, in 1983. Credit: Brownie Harris/Corbis/Getty Images
Using a technique called silkscreen printing, which duplicates images on paper or canvas using a layer of fine-mesh silk like a stencil, he began producing them in 1962, shortly after Monroe’s death. As with his depictions of other famous figures, including Elvis Presley and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the Pop artist created numerous versions of Monroe’s portrait in various different colors and configurations.
In 1964, he developed a “more refined and time-intensive” new process that was “antithetical to the mass production he was best known for,” according to Christie’s. That year, he used it to create a limited number of portraits — a rare group of works to which “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” belongs — before abandoning the technique.
“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” by Andy Warhol. Credit: Christie’s
“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” meanwhile, was owned by a succession of high-profile gallerists and collectors before being purchased by the late Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann. It is being offered for auction by the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich, the charitable organization set up in his (and his sister’s) name, which will use the proceeds to fund health and education programs for children worldwide, according to a press release.
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Described by Christie’s as “one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence,” the portrait has been shown at galleries including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and London’s Tate Modern.
“Standing alongside Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus,’ Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,’ Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ is categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time,” he added, “and it’s a once in a generation opportunity to present this masterpiece publicly at auction.”