With the emergence of TikTok and Instagram, people transforming themselves into brands isn’t breaking glass ceilings, but back in the 1960s when The Beatles, Jackie Onassis, and Andy Warhol were considered royalty, it was revolutionary. In fact, Warhol is arguably as famous now as he was when he debuted his iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans in 1962. Like like The Beatles, Warhol’s legacy is transcendent: He’s almost as famous now, nearly four decades after his unexpected death, as he was in his heyday. And, like artists who essentially invented a new style of art—Picasso’s Cubism, Breton’s Surrealism, and Monet’s Impressionism—Warhol and his prolific collection of Pop that challenges society’s archaic hierarchy is infinitely more valuable today. Case in point: Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, one of Warhol’s iconic portraits, is expected to sell for no less than $200 million at Christie’s. And, come May, it may even be the most expensive work of art sold at auction.
“This painting is the absolute pinnacle of Pop. Not only is it definitive within Warhol’s oeuvre, but within contemporary art and the entire art historical canon,” explains Johanna Flaum, Christie’s international director, head of post-war and contemporary art. “This May, Christie’s Spring Marquee Week will be the first time in a quarter-century that a 40-inch Marilyn canvas by Warhol has come to auction, presenting collectors with a rare opportunity.” The iconic image, which is one in a limited series of just five Marilyn portraits that Warhol painted throughout the summer of 1964, is a masterpiece, to say the least.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the most expensive work of art sold at auction if it does sell at the price it’s projected to. That title would still belong to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold in 2017 for $450.3 million. Da Vinci’s painting was expected to sell, however, for $100 million. So, if Warhol’s famed Marilyn follows the same pattern, it very well could steal Da Vinci’s world title.
“There are two parts of the art world: the scholarly part comprised of museums and historians, and the commercial world ruled by dealers and auction houses,” notes Patrick Moore, director of the Andy Warhol Museum. “They are not mutually exclusive—especially with an artist like Warhol, who was obsessed with money. So, a record sale like this mostly benefits the commercial world, but the reason a record sale happens is that a museum like ours spends every day making sure that Warhol remains relevant and fresh.” Ironically, falling out of vogue and being forgotten were two of Warhol’s greatest fears.