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Iconic Andy Warhol Painting of Marilyn Monroe Sets Record at Auction

Artist Andy Warhol

It's become the most expensive piece of art from the 20th century to be auctioned.

Andy Warhol's 40-square-inch portrait of Marilyn Monroe sold for around $195 million at Christie's in New York Monday.

The 40-inch-by-40-inch painting of the actor's face from 1964, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, has become the highest-priced piece of American artwork sold at auction, according to The New York Times.

"We did sell the most expensive painting of the 20th century," Christie's specialist Alex Rotter told the paper. "This is a big achievement."

The previous record had been a Jean-Michel Basquiat skull painting that was sold at Sotheby's in 2017 for $110.5 million.

Before Monday's sale, the painting had been described by Christie's as "one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence," according to CNN.

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, which was based on a publicity shot from the 1953 film Niagara, has been shown in galleries worldwide, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Tate Modern in London.

The portrait is one of many Warhol created after Monroe's death. The legendary gay artist painted Monroe in a number of colors and forms. He used a process called silkscreen printing to create most. The process copies images using a mesh silk that's used as a stencil.

He developed a more deliberate process in 1964 that Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was made from, but he stopped using the technique after creating a small number of portraits with it, CNN notes.

Warhol's previous auction record was Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), which sold for about $105 million. A White Marilyn from 1962 sold for $41 million in 2014.

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was put up for auction by the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation in Zurich, a charity set up in the name of the late Swiss art dealer Thomas Ammann and his sister Doris. The proceeds from the sale will go toward health and education programs for children around the globe, CNN reports.

The unknown buyer of the piece will be part of choosing to which charitable group 20 percent of the proceeds go, according to the Times.

Three other Warhols were also auctioned off for the group -- Flowers for $15.8 million, GE/Skull for $4.6 million, and the Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box sculpture for around $478,000.

Rotter said in a statement to CNN before Monday's auction that Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was "the absolute pinnacle of American Pop" and "the most significant 20th-century painting to come to auction in a generation."

"Standing alongside Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Warhol's Marilyn is categorically one of the greatest paintings of all time," he said.

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