Quality, relevant content can’t be spotted by an algorithm. You can’t subscribe to it. You need people – actual human beings – to create or curate it.”
― Kristina Halvorson
The iconic painting of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol has been auctioned for $195m (£158.17m) – making it the most expensive piece of 20th Century art ever sold.
Philip Hoffman, the founder of New York-based advisory company the Fine Art Group, told the New York times that there is a “huge amount of pent-up demand” for art.
“Everybody was waiting for the right moment,” he said. “And the right moment has come.”
The 1964 work — a 40-square-inch acrylic and silkscreen on linen — sold at Christie’s in New York for $195 million(hammer price plus buyer’s premium), the auction house reported. The buyer, who was present at the auction, was Larry Gagosian. Prior to Monday, the auction sale record for a 20th-century painting was $179.4 million for Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O),” which sold at Christie’s in May 2015.
The painting, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964), depicts a press photo from Monroe’s 1953 noir film Niagara. The image of the actress is one Warhol used repeatedly in his work until his death in 1987. It derives from his “Shot Marilyn” portrait series, which Warhol produced after an incident at his downtown studio when he prompted a collaborator, Dorothy Podber, to shoot into a stack of canvases.
“When we think of the most iconic images of art history,” said Flaum, “we think of paintings like Da Vinci’s "Mona Lisa’ and Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ and Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” This is that same lineage — it’s that iconic image from the second half of the 20th century. And, in a very Warholian way, has been reproduced endlessly.”
Relevant: appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest.
For 195 million reasons, the contemporary marketplace has deemed Mr. Warhol’s art extremely relevant.
With the sale, Christie’s also rode a double-pronged pop culture wave of renewed interest in both Warhol and Monroe. Both have become relevant. This year, Netflix released a six-part documentary series The Andy Warhol Diaries looking at the artist’s personal life, as well as a documentary film, The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes.
Last week, the resurgence of Monroe’s 1962 custom-made nude gown, which the star infamously wore when she sang a breathy “Happy Birthday” to John F. Kennedy, just months before her death, was donned by Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala. Kardashian’s decision to wear the actual dress on the red carpet subsequently caused a stir among fashion archivists.
“You need people – actual human beings – to create or curate relevance.”
“Who decides what is relevant for a museum? The curatorial team or a multidisciplinary team who has the audience in mind when decisions are made about the best way to connect visitors to the collection?”
Neither. The market decides what’s relevant. They decide with their feet, attention, dollars, and participation.
Until next time. Travel safe.