Shot Sage Blue Marilyn could be the most valued work of contemporary art sold publicly when it hits the auction block at Christie’s on Monday in New York with an asking price of US$200 million.
With the highest pre-sale estimate the public auction markets have seen—Warhol’s 1964 Marilyn will be in the company of more than a dozen works being offered for US$30 million or more during a series of New York spring sales at the top auction houses over the following two weeks.
Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s alone expect to sell more than US$1 billion of art each at evening and day auctions, likely leading to a total exceeding the marquee November sales in New York. Phillips sales could total as much as US$236 million.
“We’re seeing the return of the high end of the market both in terms of individual works, but also in terms of large single-owner collections,” says
head of art services at Bank of America Private Bank.
Sage Shot Blue, for instance, is among 100 works being offered at Christie’s by the foundation of the Swiss art dealers, siblings Doris and Thomas Ammann, in two dedicated sales expected to realize a total of at least US$300 million. On Thursday, May 12, the auction house will offer the collection of
Anne H. Bass
valued at least US$250 million, while Sotheby’s on Monday, May 16, will offer the second half of the Macklowe Collection, valued at US$200 million or more.
Watson points to several “macro” conditions leading to this moment, including inflation, which draws investors away from stocks to real assets such as art, gold, and real estate. Although the U.S. stock market has been volatile this year, “we’re coming off a period where we’ve seen a lot of wealth creation from stock market gains and various other drivers,” he says.
The bank also has been adding to its art lending book at the rate of US$1 billion a year over the past couple of years, which provides collectors with cash to buy art among other assets, he says.
Many collectors will have their paddles primed to bid on rising artists who are female, diverse and young this season, but it should not be a surprise that the highest asking prices are for works by the blue-chip masters of the 20th century.
Here’s a closer look at the top five works up for sale at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips:
Andy Warhol, Shot Sage Blue, 1964. Estimate: About $200 million.
Shot Sage Blue is one of four silkscreens of the actress
in various colors that Warhol painted in 1964 from a 1954 photograph. The four 40-by-40-inch canvases were propped up against a wall in the artist’s New York studio, known as the Factory, when they were shot at by
from a handgun she took from her purse in what has been widely described as an act of performance art. A fifth silk screen rendering of Marilyn in turquoise escaped the bullet.
The sale of this iconic work is not guaranteed by the auction house or a third party, which is true for all the works on offer from the Ammann Foundation.
“It speaks to the confidence of the estate in the market and in Christie’s in marketing the collection,” says
an executive vice president of acquisitions at Masterworks, a New York firm that sells shares in artworks to retail investors.
Market expectations are that Marilyn will fetch the asking price of US$200 million, if not more, “given the scarcity of Warhol paintings from the ’60s of this quality.” It’s also an image that really “made Warhol,” even more than other iconic works such as Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962, putting him “front and center in the pop art movement.
An orange Marilyn reportedly fetched US$200 million in a private sale, but the highest public auction price a Warhol work has achieved is US$105 million for Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), 1963, at a Sotheby’s sale in November 2013.
Given the work’s provenance, condition, and iconic history, “I would not be surprised if we saw it achieve a price in excess of $250 million,” Watson says. “No one has a crystal ball, but all of those fundamental elements are there for it to really fly.”
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, 1982. Estimate: About US$70 million.
Japanese billionaire art collector
is selling a celebrated 8-by-16-foot work by Basquiat that he bought only six years ago at Christie’s for US$57.3 million. It will be offered at Phillips’ 20th-century and contemporary art evening sale on Wednesday, May 18, in New York.
The sale will help Maezawa fund a private museum he’s opening in Chiba, Japan, near Tokyo, according to Phillips. At US$70 million, the work—which is guaranteed by a third party—would continue to make this energetic work the second-most expensive Basquiat sold at auction, behind another Untitled work from 1982 that Maezawa owns. That one was purchased at Sotheby’s in May 2017 for US$110.5 million.
Untitled (Shades of Red), 1961. Estimate: US$60 million to 80 million
This Rothko color-field work in brilliant reds and deep orange hung in the living room of investor, arts patron, and philanthropist Anne H. Bass’s Manhattan apartment until recently, framing an entryway along with another painting by the artist, No. 1, 1962, rendered in bright swaths of orange and pink, which has an asking price between US$45 million and US$65 million.
Bass, who died at age 78 in 2020, bought the painting in 1983. In a catalog entry, Christies wrote Shades of Red “emanates the same sense of ethereal light that radiates from Rothko’s best works.”
Bass was the former wife of
who earned his fortune in the oil business. The Rothko works, which are both guaranteed by a third party, are among 12 pieces that will be sold in a single-owner auction the evening of Thursday, May 12 at Christie’s, ahead of its 20th-century evening sale.
Pablo Picasso, Femme nue chouchée, 1932. Estimate: About US$60 million.
Femme nue couchée, 1932—an unusual portrait of the artist’s muse and lover Marie-Thérèse Walter will be sold at auction for the first time at Sotheby’s modern evening sale on Tuesday, May 17 in New York.
This austerely colored depiction of Walter in which she, unusual for Picasso, is painted with the “strong and sensuous fin-like limbs of a sea-creature,” is being sold by an anonymous American collector who bought it in 2008 from Picasso’s descendants through Gagosian, according to Sotheby’s. At 51 ⅛ by 63 ⅝ inches, the painting is one of the “most monumental and uninhibitedly sensual portrayals of Marie-Thérèse Walter,” Sotheby’s chairman
said in a news release.
Claude Monet’s Le Grand Canal et Santa Maria della Salute, 1908. Estimate: About $50 million.
This Monet painting of Venice is one of the few the artist painted of the Basilica di Santa
Maria della Salute,
and one of few the artist painted of Venice. It will be sold at auction for the first time at Sotheby’s modern evening sale.
In a catalog entry, Sotheby’s calls the richly colored painting “one of the finest works created during the artist’s Venetian sojourn and presents a daring encapsulation of the traits that make Monet one of the most unique and visionary artistic voices of the twentieth century.”
The artist created 37 paintings in Venice during a brief stay in the fall of 1908, moving around the city throughout the day to capture the light and atmosphere of various locations. This work, being offered from an anonymous collector who inherited it through a European private collection in 1994, was one of six views painted of the Grand Canal and the Basilica from the vantage point of the
—two of which are owned by museums.