Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ worth $ 200 million could test the health of the Art Market

In 1985, retailer Tony Shafrazi designed a poster promoting his exhibition of paintings co-created by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The picture shows two artists in boxing gloves as if preparing to spar with each other.

Though playful, the poster hinted at the complicated relationship between Warhol and Basquiat; they were competitors as well as associates and close friends. Decades later, that rivalry continues to play out in the market arena: In 2017, a painting of Basquiat’s skull brought in $ 110.5 million at Sotheby’s, overshadowing sales of Warhol’s painting in the crash for $ 105.4 million in 2013.

At least in market terms, the latest round is likely to go to Warhol. On Monday night at a charity auction at Christie’s, Warhol’s 1964 screenplay Marilyn Monroe, “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” is estimated to sell for about $ 200 million, the highest price for any American artwork on auction. . It could also surpass the world record for a 20th-century artwork, $ 179.4 million paid in 2015 for a 1955 painting by Pablo Picasso (Les Femmes d’Alger (‘Version’ O). ”

At the start of New York’s spring auction season, Christie’s on Monday night is widely considered a major event for the two weeks of sales ahead, as well as an indicator of the wider health of the international art market still emerging from the shadow of the Covid19 pandemic.

“Two years has stopped a huge amount and there is a huge amount of retained demand from new clients,” said Philip Hoffman, founder of The Fine Art Group, a New York-based consulting firm, adding that upcoming auctions could raise as much as $ 2 billion. “Everyone was waiting for the right moment, and the right moment has come.”

Christie’s sales are likely to show whether top-quality trophies continue to have high prices, regardless of instability in the world – be it an overseas war, a pandemic or a terrorist attack.

Still, the number of customers who can afford to spend more than $ 100 million on a painting is still small. And given that a large number of works of art with blue chips will go on sale over the next two weeks, it is still unclear whether there is a sufficient population of wealthy collectors who can absorb so much expensive material.

“These moments are few and less,” said Alex Rotter, president of Christie’s 20th and 21st century art department. For Rotter, a 40 x 40 inch painting is Warhol’s “essence of everything”. “He defines his position in art history and popular culture,” Rotter added.

The painting was in the collection of Swiss retailers Thomas and Doris Ammann, and proceeds from Monday’s sale of 36 works will go to their foundation, which supports children’s programs. In an unusual arrangement, the buyer will have the right to vote in choosing a charity 20 percent of the proceeds, Christie’s announced on Sunday.

The Ammann brothers and sisters founded a gallery in Zurich in 1977 that specializes in Impressionist, modern, post-war and contemporary artists. After Thomas’ death in 1993, Doris continued to run the gallery. She died last year.

Christie’s auction is unusual in that no Ammann work is backed by a warranty – the minimum price at which a third party or auction house undertook to purchase the work. The Ammann estate, according to Rotter, wanted to maximize the charity’s auction proceeds.

The vivid painting of Marilyn, which Rotter called “the most significant painting of the 20th century to come up for auction in a generation,” was based on a promotional photo from the actress’ film “Niagara,” part of Warhol’s “Marilyn Shot” portrait series. In 1964, a woman entered the Warhol’s Factory studio with a gun and shot at a pile of four of Marilyn’s paintings. Christie’s canvas was not pierced by a bullet, Rotter said. There are five of them in total (one escaped shooting). Other versions of this trophy series are owned by American collectors Steven A. Cohen, Kenneth Griffin and Peter Brant.

Striking for her light blue eyeshadows, yellow hair and red lips, the work has been exhibited at institutions including the Guggenheim in New York, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and Tate Modern in London.

“Warhol’s selection of studio footage, Marilyn’s close-cut face and color contrast draw attention to Marilyn’s lips, which lie between smiles and expressions of clenched teeth,” said Jessica Beck, curator of art at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. “That tension gives this painting its magic.”

Christie’s made the most of his Warhol Award with a theatrical presentation before the sale; at the auction house’s premiere, the red carpet led to the illuminated “Warhol’s Marilyn” sign, before visitors entered a darkened room where the only painting was lit in a new large white frame.

As auction week progresses, Christie’s will offer Picasso’s 1909 bronze casting, “Woman’s Head (Fernande)” on May 12. who recently left the Metropolitan Museum of Art to fund new acquisitions. It is estimated at $ 30 million.

Next week, May 16, Sotheby’s will offer the rest of Macklowe’s collection, the fruits of a bitter divorce between real estate builder Harry Macklowe and his ex-wife Linda, whose first cache brought in $ 676.1 million last fall. On May 19, in an evening sale of contemporary art, the auction house will offer a painting by Cy Twombly on a 1969 panel and Francis Bacon’s “Study of the Red Pope 1962, 2nd Version 1971,” both valued at $ 40 million to $ 60 million.

It is also uncertain how the works of black artists – currently in high demand – will be sold this season. At Sotheby’s, Kerry James Marshall’s “Beauty Examined” is estimated at $ 8 to $ 12 million; Julie Mehretu “Emergent Algorithm (Manara Circle, Palestine)” for $ 3 to $ 4 million; and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye “11pm Sunday” for $ 1.2 million to $ 1.8 million.

At Christie’s, Toyin Ojih Odutola “Inside this dark canal (all you could see was what she could give you)” is estimated at $ 400,000 to $ 600,000; Amoako Boafo’s “Yellow Dress” from $ 250,000 to $ 350,000; and Reggie Burrows Hodges’ Color Intersection: Experience for $ 200,000 to $ 300,000.

The Warhol-Basquiat relationship comes to the fore even as the Basquiat sisters present an impressive performance of their brother, who highlights Warhol, and while Ryan Murphy’s documentary series, “Andy Warhol’s Diaries,” streams on Netflix and details the artist’s history with each other.

The series talks about how, after reading a review of The New York Times’ Shafrazi show – “Warhol, TKO [technical knockout] in 16 rounds ”- Basquiat fell into depression, especially affected by the hint that he had become the“ mascot of the art world ”.

On May 18, the 1982 untitled light-colored Basquiat will arrive at an auction block in Phillips with an estimated $ 70 million; the seller, Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, bought it just six years ago from Christie’s for $ 57.3 million. At least this year, in market terms, Warhol’s title seems certain.

“I just love that, even in death, they’re still in this boxing match with each other,” said Beck of the Warhol Museum. “They are still competing in the market and there is still such frantic attention in their work, and their work remains so contemporary.”

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