Pop artist Andy Warhol’s image of Marilyn Monroe, one of his best known portraits, has smashed records after selling for $195m in New York in less than four minutes of bidding.
Warhol’s 1964 silk-screen image of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, created after the film star’s death two years earlier, has become the most expensive piece of 20th-century art ever sold following its auction on Monday for $170m plus fees, taking the final price to $195m.
The previous record was set in 2015 when a 1955 painting by Pablo Picasso – Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) – sold for $179.4m.
It has also become the most expensive work by an American artist to be sold at auction. The record was previously held by a 1982 skull painting by Jean-Michael Basquiat, Warhol’s sometime friend, collaborator and rival, which sold for $110.5m in 2017.
According to reports, the buyer was Larry Gagosian, a US art dealer and owner of a chain of galleries. Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is one in a series of portraits Warhol made of Monroe after her death.
The sale of the 40in by 40in-work at Christie’s also smashed Warhol’s previous record. That had been held by Silver car crash (Double disaster) (in 2 parts) (1963), which sold for $105.4m in 2013.
“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is the absolute pinnacle of American pop,” Alex Rotter, chairman of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s, said. “The painting transcends the genre of portraiture, superseding 20th century art and culture.”
The title of the painting, based on a promotional photo of Monroe from the 1953 film Niagara, refers to an incident in which a woman used a pistol to shoot at four portraits of the actor in Warhol’s studio.
Shot Sage Blue Marilyn had been held in the collection of Swiss art dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann. Earlier this year, George Frei, the chairman of the board of the Thomas and Doris Amman Foundation, said the painting “bears witness to [Monroe’s] undiminished visual power in the new millennium”.
He added: “Marilyn the woman is gone; the terrible circumstances of her life and death are forgotten. All that remains is the enigmatic smile that links her to another mysterious smile of a distinguished lady, the Mona Lisa.”
Monroe appeared in 29 films, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. Hailed as a “sex symbol” and fashion icon, she died in 1962 of an overdose at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 36. Warhol died in 1987.
Christie’s said the proceeds of the sale would go to the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation, based in Zurich, which works to establish healthcare and education programs for children around the world.
Demand for 20th century art is at record levels, say experts. On 16 May, Sotheby’s will offer 30 works that make up the remainder of the Macklowe collection, including an unseen Rothko and one of Warhol’s last self-portraits.
An acrimonious divorce between real estate developer Harry Macklowe and his former wife, Linda, forced the sale of the couple’s collection. The first sale of 30 works in November reached a total sum of £676.1m.
On 18 May, Phillips will hold a sale of 20th-century and contemporary art, featuring a bright orange 1982 untitled Basquiat with an estimate of $70m.