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Warhol’s ‘Marilyn,’ at $195 Million, Shatters Auction Record for an American Artist


The primary lot, a piece by the American conceptual artist Mike Bidlo, “Not Picasso (Bather with Beachball),” estimated at $60,000 to $80,000, went for $1.3 million with fees.

The collector Peter Brant, seated within the third row, bought the third lot, Francesco Clemente’s “Fourteen Stations, No. XI,” for $1.9 million, over an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. Then the dealer Larry Gagosian purchased Cy Twombly’s blue, green and purple painting on a picket panel for about $17 million, over the high estimate of $15 million.

By comparison, the Marilyn silk-screen — which Rotter recently called “essentially the most significant Twentieth-century painting to return to auction in a generation” — felt like something of an anticlimax. Yes, it set a record, but speculation upfront of the auction had the painting soaring to as much as $400 million. As an alternative, the auctioneer appeared to wring the bids, with the painting ultimately going to Gagosian; it was unclear on whose behalf he was bidding.

“Expectation was very, very, very high,” the art adviser Abigail Asher said. “It was an incredibly healthy price, but at the identical time I think the client got a deal. It’s one in all the icons of Twentieth-century art.”

Some wondered whether the stock market’s poor performance on Monday may need muted the “Marilyn” bidding. The Warhol painting, one in all five in a series, relies on a promotional photo from the actress’s film “Niagara,” a part of a series of “Shot Marilyn” portraits. In 1964, a lady walked into Warhol’s Factory studio with a pistol and shot at a stack of 4 Marilyn paintings. (The canvas up for auction at Christie’s was not pierced by the bullet.)

The Ammann siblings bought the work from the media mogul S.I. Newhouse Jr., in 1998; that 12 months, Newhouse purchased Warhol’s “Orange Marilyn” (1964) at Sotheby’s for $17.3 million. After Newhouse’s death, in 2017, the billionaire hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin bought that work privately for about $200 million.

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