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The Wall Street Journal: Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe portrait sells for record $195 million

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An iconic Andy Warhol silk-screen portrait of movie star Marilyn Monroe sold for $195 million at Christie’s on Monday, establishing a new record for any American artwork at auction. 

The sale kicked off New York’s major spring auctions and underscored the global strength of the high-end art market at a time of volatility in broader financial markets. Collectors often regard fine art as an investment hedge because art values don’t necessarily move in tandem with securities.

Warhol’s 3-foot square silk-screen from 1964, called “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” depicts a promotional photo from the actress’s 1953 film, “Niagara.” The artist transformed the actress into a pop-art icon by giving her a bubblegum-pink face, ruby lips and blue eye shadow set against a sage-blue background. 

At least four bidders vied for the work, with dealer Larry Gagosian winning it after a roughly four-minute-long bidding battle in Christie’s Rockefeller Center salesroom in Manhattan. Heading into the latest sale, Christie’s had high expectations for the work, giving it a $200 million estimate. 

In terms of blockbuster paintings, the Warhol now ranks among the most expensive artworks ever sold. The sale surpassed the $110.5 million paid in 2017 for a skull painting by Warhol’s protégé, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The sale also eclipsed Warhol’s previous, $105.4 million record set in 2013 for his wall-size, metallic diptych featuring a man slumped in his wrecked automobile, “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster).” 

The overall titleholder remains Leonardo da Vinci’s $450 million “Salvator Mundi,” which Christie’s sold to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in 2017. 

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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