Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe portrait sells for record breaking amount at auction

ITV News Correspondent Ian Woods examines why Andy Warhol's painting of Marilyn Monroe has such an enduring impact

Andy Warhol's painting of Marilyn Monroe has become the most expensive piece of artwork by a US artist ever to sell at auction.

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn sold for a cool $195 million (£157m) on Monday.

The 1964 silkscreen image shows Monroe in vibrant close-up - hair yellow, eyeshadow blue and lips red - on a turquoise background.

It's also the most expensive piece from the 20th century ever auctioned, according to Christie’s auction house in New York, where the sale took place.

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Andy Warhol paintings sell for hundreds of millions even after pandemic.

As we edge out of the coronavirus pandemic, the prices for Andy Warhol paintings are incredibly buoyant.

In 2021, his auction turnover reached $348 million (£282m), exceeding the $300 million (£244m) threshold for the first time in six years thanks to some 1,600 works sold worldwide.

In terms of annual turnover, Andy Warhol was placed third as the most successful artist in the world - behind Pablo Picasso and his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Marilyn Monroe screenprints on display in the British Museum back in 2017. Credit: PA

What is the story behind the painting?

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) is from a series of five portraits of America's most iconic actress in the 1950s.

Actress Dorothy Podber had asked the artist if she could 'shoot' the paintings, assuming she meant with a camera, Mr Warhol agreed.

However, dressed in black leather and white gloves, and accompanied by a Great Dane, she drew a pistol from her bag and put a bullet through a stack of silk-screens depicting Marilyn Monroe.

The incident cemented the portraits in infamy and is perhaps one of the reasons that it stands to sell for around £163 million.

Mao by Andy Warhol, on display during a photocall for 20th/21st century evening sale back in February. Credit: PA

According to Thierry Ehrmann, CEO and founder of Artprice said: "All the conditions are in place for a new landmark. Last year, a Picasso painting sold for $103 million, but the record that really impressed was the $69 million for a work by Beeple.

"The market took real risks, which it had not done since the Salvator Mundi in 2017, the only result to ever cross the $200 million threshold."

Warhol pieces regularly populate auction rooms, but his true masterpieces remain rare.

For each of his most famous examples of his works, Campbell Soup, Mao and Jackie Kennedy, almost all of the colour versions are now in museums.

And of Andy Warhol's five best performing pieces at auction, four have been in black and white, making this depiction of Marilyn Monroe that much more attractive to art dealers.