what does that say about Andy Warhol (and the super rich collectors)?


Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn at Christie’s Auction House.Picture AP

What does such an auction record say about Andy Warhol’s work?

Auction house Christie’s acclaimed silkscreen Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) by Andy Warhol as one of the most important works of art ever, but the main focus was on how much would be paid for the portrait of Marilyn Monroe. The auction is therefore considered an economic indicator: How is the art market doing after the last two corona years?

So expectations were high in New York. Christie’s estimated that the work would bring in $ 200 million. Some experts even came up with $ 400 million. New York Times explained the auction in advance as a posthumous battle between Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). In 2013, $ 105.4 million was paid for a Warhol, so in 2017, a Basquiat went under the hammer for $ 110.5 million.

For Marilyn’s serigraphy on Monday in New York, $ 195 million (185 million euros) was paid. It was a bit anticlimactic after all the excitement, but it’s still the highest amount ever paid at auction for a work of art from the 20th century.

Several important auctions of modern and contemporary art will follow over the next two weeks. The new record may have fueled the buying desire of the world’s super rich.

Who is willing to pay $ 195 million for a Warhol?

Art buyers in the top segment often remain anonymous. And often the works are stored somewhere in a vault in Asia or in one of the Gulf states. Art with this value is regularly seen by private collectors / investors as a status symbol or investment object. Not like anything for the couch.

This time, the buyer is no stranger: 77-year-old Larry Gagosian, the world’s most influential art dealer, was in person at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza auction house to bid. However, it is not known whether he bought the work on behalf of a developer or for himself. Because of the money, he does not have to let go of them.

In the latter case, the circle is complete: Gagosian sold the silkscreen print in 1986 for an undisclosed amount to Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann. It was the basis for Thomas (1950-1993) and Doris Ammann (1944-2021), who now had the work auctioned off. The proceeds go to health and education programs to improve the lives of children worldwide.

Has the art market recovered from the pandemic?

Galleries were closed, fairs were canceled: 2020 was a really bad year. As early as 2021, the international art market took revenge: Worldwide, $ 65.1 billion (58.8 billion euros) of art was purchased from galleries and auction houses. These estimates were made in March by the Swiss bank UBS and Art Basel, one of the world’s leading art fairs.

Their annual survey focuses on the top segment. One in three of the unifying super-rich bought art and antiques for more than $ 1 million in 2021. According to Art Basel and UBS, this fanatical group can be found mainly in China, and to a lesser extent in Germany, France and the United States.

They shop at galleries and art dealers, but in 2021 it was primarily auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s that showed the biggest economic recovery. Art and antique auctions sold for $ 26.3 billion, up 47 percent from 2020.

Andy Warhol’s record auction suggests the trend will continue this year. An auction record in the world of photography can also be broken next weekend. A rare vintage print from 1924 by Man Ray goes up for auction in New York on Saturday. It is the well-known portrait of Alice Prin, better known as the surrealistic muse Kiki de Montparnasse, with two f-shaped violin openings in her bare back. With an expected price of between 5 and 7 million dollars, Andreas Gursky’s Man Ray Rhein II (4.3 million dollars).

So is art a good investment?

That kind of records only says something about the tip of the market, which has an awful lot of money to spend. If less affluent private collectors get their collection auctioned off (due to lack of money, due to a divorce, or because they are getting older and living less), the returns are often quite disappointing.

A wisdom in the art world is that you have to compare a new painting with a new car: as soon as you drive out of the showroom, you have lost half of its value.

Rifle shots

In 1964, Andy Warhol made a series of serigraphs of Marilyn Monroe, who had died two years earlier. Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is part of a series of five identical portraits of the Hollywood star, but in different colors. Performance artist Dorothy Podber fired a revolver at a pile of canvases in Andy Warhol’s studio right between Marilyn Monroe’s eyes (The Shot Marilyns† Only the blue-green (‘sage’) was not damaged. That explains the title.

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