Marilyn Portrait by Andy Warhol: The Most Expensive 20th-century Artwork • Art de Vivre

How Andy Warhol dominated the art world and changed it forever

6 minutes to read
Nov 16, 2022

An exhibition at the Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art, running through February 2023, is a wonderful opportunity to see 200 of Andy Warhol’s works — including paintings, photographs, and films — close up. 

But before heading off to Japan to see this show, discover how he became so well known, the influence he had on the artworld and how his legacy lives on. 

How did Andy Warhol’s painting of Marilyn become the most expensive 20th century painting?

Andy Warhol became known for his pop art in the 1960s, his works reflecting his fascination with money and business, advertising and design, and blurring the boundaries between mass consumption and "high art." 

He once said: 

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.

He eventually became the most expensive painter in the world. 

Andy Warhol with his dog © Jack Mitchell / Creative Commons - Art de VivreAndy Warhol with his dog © Jack Mitchell / Creative Commons

'Shot Sage Blue Marilyn' is part of Andy Warhol’s iconic silkscreen paintings — the well-known series titled 'Shot Marilyns'. 

Marilyn Monroe, still an eternal icon and a celebrity whose image lives on, in this picture ceased to just be a mere person, and became a symbol of mass culture, just like his cans of soup.

© Mundissima on Shutterstock - Art de Vivre© Mundissima on Shutterstock

How did Andy Warhol rise to fame?

Warhol noticed that people began to be less interested in expressionism and were becoming more fascinated with everyday objects. In the late fifties, he introduced artworks that were images of mundane items including vacuum cleaners, canned food, bottles, and televisions.

Warhol found his niche and by the beginning of the sixties, through his dollar signs and movie stars, the notion of what art could be had been completely revolutionised.

Andy dubbed his new studio in Manhattan “Factory” and many underground artists, writers and musicians would spend time there in his company.

At the Factory, Andy focused on silk screen printing and his artworks were put on stream. Critics said there was not really any authorship or originality in his work. He depicted identical cans of soup and coca cola bottles, for instance, as a way to reflect on modern production. It was a way to get people talking about the consumer society that in those years was in vogue.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962, acrylic on canvas, 2054 x 1448 mm (Tate) © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. via Wikipedia Commons - Art de Vivre

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962, acrylic on canvas, 2054 x 1448 mm (Tate) © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. via Wikipedia Commons

But did he want to expose what was wrong with society? Or was his main concern that the public liked his works? That the more pictures he created, the more profit? 

Many people did not like his work and didn’t really understand them. How on eart could a shipping box be displayed as if it were a sculpture? How could portraits of Marilyn Monroe be seen as paintings?

Amid so much controversy, Andy Warhol was bold and through his work, he challenged modernism. 

Influence of the portrait

Today Andy Warhol's painting is widely used in the design of all directions. The pattern is repeated on dishes, clothes, wallpaper, and accessories. For example, LEGO manufacturers even released a construction set dedicated to the picture.

The Monroe print has been repeatedly used in various clothing collections. In 1991, Gianni Versace introduced a dress encrusted with precious stones depicting Marilyn Monroe. The collection also included shoes, a purse, a suit with shorts and a mini with the face of the actress.

Other brands such as Nike, Converse and others also create their products and accessories depicting this image in different variations.

Experts in the art world believe that the Andy Warhol portrait depicting Monroe is the absolute pinnacle of American pop culture and the embodiment of the American dream, it broadcasts optimism, vulnerability, fame and cult at the same time.


For a deeper insight into the lucrative art world, discover some of the world's most expensive paintings sold this year.

Credits for the Main photo: Grey 82 © Shutterstock


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