The collector Peter Brant, sitting in the third row, immediately followed, buying the third lot for sale, that of Francesco Clemente “Fourteen stations, n. XI“, For $ 1.9 million, out of an estimate of $ 80,000 to $ 120,000. So retailer Larry Gagosian bought Cy Twombly’s blue, green, and purple painting on a wooden panel for about $ 17 million, over the high estimate of $ 15 million.
By comparison, Marilyn’s silkscreen – which Christie’s specialist Alex Rotter recently called “the most significant 20th-century painting auctioned in a generation” – looked like something of a disappointment. Yes, she broke Basquiat’s record, but pre-auction speculation sent the painting up to $ 400 million. Instead, the auctioneer seemed to squeeze the bids like water from stone, with the winning bid going to Gagosian, which an art expert theorized could have been bidding for media mogul David Geffen.
“The expectation was very, very, very high,” said art consultant Abigail Asher. “It was an incredibly healthy price, but at the same time I think the buyer got a deal. He’s one of the art icons of the 20th century.”
The painting, one of five in a series, is based on a promotional photo of the film by the actress “Niagara”, part of a series of Warhol’s “Shot Marilyn” portraits. In 1964, a woman entered Warhol’s factory studio with a gun and shot a stack of four Marilyn paintings (the canvas auctioned at Christie’s was not pierced by the bullet).
The Ammann brothers purchased the work from media mogul SI Newhouse Jr., in 1998; that year, Newhouse purchased Warhol’s “Orange Marilyn” (1964) from Sotheby’s for $ 17.3 million. After Newhouse’s death in 2017, billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin bought the work privately for about $ 200 million.