A staff member poses for photographers next to an Andy Warhol work (photo by Carl Court / Getty Images)
An Andy Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe valued at an estimated $ 200 million (~ R3.2 billion) is the title of this month’s New York spring sales that collectors say are among the most anticipated ever.
Christie’s expects Warhol’s 1964 “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” to become the most expensive work of art of the 20th century when the auction house throws it under the hammer on Monday.
Not to be outdone, competitor Sotheby’s is offering $ 1 billion worth of modern and contemporary art, including the second portion of the famous Macklowe Collection, during its main week in May.
“The excitement is certainly unprecedented,” Joan Robledo-Palop, collector and CEO of Zeit Contemporary Art in New York City, told AFP of the buzz surrounding this season’s auctions.
Warhol’s 100 x 100 cm silkscreen is part of a series of portraits the pop artist made of Monroe following his death from an overdose in August 1962.
They became known as the “Shot” series after a visitor to Warhol’s “Factory” studio in Manhattan fired a pistol at them, piercing the portraits that were later repaired.
Alex Rotter, head of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s, called the portrait “the most significant 20th century painting up for auction in a generation”.
The current most expensive work at auction of the 20th century is Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which earned $ 179.4 million in 2015.
The auction record for a Warhol is $ 104.5 million paid for “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” in 2013.
Other highlights offered by Christie’s include Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict” (1982), which is expected to cost more than $ 30 million, and Mark Rothko’s “Untitled (Shades of Red)”, featuring the tip to recover 80 million dollars.
The auction house is also offering three Claude Monet oil paintings on canvas which are expected to sell for over $ 30 million each.
“Every two decades you have a sale where the quality is so high that you don’t see all of this at once normally. This season has really become one of those unique moments,” Rotter told AFP.
After selling the first batch of works from the Macklowe Collection, the most expensive on the market at $ 600 million, last fall, Sotheby’s will auction the remaining 30 items when its sales open on May 16.
Highlights include Gerhard Richter’s 1975 “Seascape”, estimated at up to $ 35 million, and Rothko’s 1960 “Untitled” which has a high-end pre-sale estimate of $ 50 million.
Sotheby’s said its modern evening auction of 19th and 20th century works, including those by Pablo Picasso and Philip Guston, is the “most valuable” in the category in 15 years.
Picasso’s “Femme nue couche” appears at auction for the first time and Sotheby’s expects it to gross more than $ 60 million. Other highlights include a Monet view of Venice that would have brought in $ 50 million.
Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s head of global art sales, said she expects records to be broken in all categories.
“The art market is very strong. That’s why we see such an amazing range of works on offer this season,” he told AFP.