Toni Clayton, American Pop & Modern Specialist
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The average value of Andy Warhol's artwork has experienced a 24% compound annual growth rate over the last 5 years, with limited edition Andy Warhol prints' auction price ranging between £2000 and £4,070,148 in 2022. This increase highlights the lasting allure and worth of his creations—learn more about Andy Warhol's market here. As a highly regarded and influential artist of the 20th century, Warhol's prints continue to achieve impressive prices at auction.
The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting was achieved in May 2022, when Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) sold for a staggering US$195,040,000 at Christie's New York. This sale set a new record, making it the most expensive piece of 20th-century art ever sold.
Warhol's enduring popularity and influence make him a highly sought-after artist in the secondary market. His prints maintain a consistently high value, demonstrating their continued appeal to collectors and art enthusiasts alike. This article explores the most expensive Warhol pieces sold at auction to date.
In May 2022, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964), sold for US$195 million (£158 million) at Christie’s New York, making it the most expensive piece of 20th-century art ever sold.
A testament to the level of fame and popularity that Warhol still weilds today, this work is one of his most immediately recognisable. The timeless Marilyn Monroe stares out at us in all her Pop-saturated glory, coy and indescernible expression radiating that sense of effortless celebrity which Warhol was so drawn to.
The fact that this screenprint was one of five that were quite literally 'shot' by revolver-wielding performance artist Dorothy Podmer in 1964 only adds to its notoriety, despite having since been repaired.
Having not been on public display for 15 years until being consigned for a 2022 Sotheby's sale, it is understandable that anticipation was high for the auction sale of Warhol's White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times), even sparking headlines speculating how much the painting— estimate on request—would ultimately sell for. It did not disappoint: the auction sale, at Sotheby's in New York Contemporary Evening Auction, the hammer came down on the astonishing price of $74,000,000.
Taken from his Death and Disaster series, another top price realised for Warhol at auction was achieved for Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) at Sotheby’s in 2013. An undeniably powerful work, this monumental painting bears witness to the circumstances of disaster and reflects on the long tradition of history painting in art from Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa to Picasso’s Guernica.
Here Warhol transforms a tragic scene, repeating it over and over again until it resembles frames from a film or animation, its black and white surface turned silvery for posterity. The work was made in 1963, a seminal – and somewhat melancholic – year for Warhol in which he also produced Suicides, Race Riots and Silver Electric Chair.
Having turned Marilyn Monroe’s iconic features into innumerable silkscreen prints it was only natural that Warhol should take Elvis as his subject in this 1963 painting. Repeating the figure of the King in his dynamic cowboy stance as he draws his gun, Triple Elvis (Ferus Type) takes on a cinematic quality that elevates the star’s image from pop icon to demigod. At the same time, the background colour recalls the silver screen of Hollywood as well as the baroque ornaments of the Catholic church Warhol grew up in, surrounded by painted icons to be venerated and reproduced for the masses.
Painted in the last year of Warhol’s life, Sixty Last Suppers is testament to the artist’s enduring love for the old masters. That year Warhol also produced The Last Supper (Pink) and The Camouflage Last Supper which along with the current work were based on reproductions of a 19th century copy of the original painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
By applying his silkscreen technique to a 16th century masterpiece and reproducing it into a monumental grid of repeated images, Warhol placed his work in dialogue with the Western art historical canon that came before him. In addition, this was Warhol referencing his own roots in the catholic church and perhaps questioning the value of a single image over many.
With this work Warhol demonstrated once again his enduring fascination with fame and celebrity, picking as his subject the actor Marlon Brando in the film The Wild One. Unlike previous silkscreen portraits, with Four Marlons, Warhol chose to print Brando’s figure onto unprimed canvas, eschewing bright overlays or silver grounds to let the raw magnetism of the actor’s expression, pose and leathers do the talking.
Painted in 1966, the work represents Warhol at the height of his career, as he uses the silkscreen technique to borrow from the world of advertising and Hollywood to come up with a whole new style of painting that broke from the canon as dictated by critic Clement Greenberg. Here, Warhol was forging a new path, one that would eventually earn him his own fame and fortune, equalling and even perhaps surpassing that of his icons.
Painted in the same year as Triple Elvis, Warhol's Double Elvis [Ferus Type] appeared to be slightly less popular on the market, achieving US$30million less than its counterpart when it was sold in New York in 2019. The work is no less iconic however, with Elvis’s classic features staring out at the viewer in determination, his gunslinger persona representing an homage to the American romance with the West and the enduring figure of the cowboy. Here the original publicity shot from the 1960 Western movie Flaming Star is doubled and reproduced to life-size resulting in an imposing work that remains a classic work in this luminous artist’s oeuvre.
Read more about Warhol's Elvis in our Guide here.
Men In Her Life, which sold for over US$63,000,000 at Phillips New York in 2010, is an homage to both film star Elizabeth Taylor and the American public’s fascination with her life and loves.
Using an image taken from LIFE magazine, Warhol portrays Taylor with her third husband Mike Todd as well as another couple, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Though it seems like an innocent image of romance and friendship, the photograph actually foreshadows a disaster and a complicated love affair which caused Taylor to be vilified by the media and the public.
Once again, Warhol repeats his central motif to liken the images to the frames of a film, bringing movement to a still. At the same time he retains the original black and white of the photograph, contrary to what we expect from his brightly coloured canvases from the same year.
Perhaps one of Warhol’s more politically overt and well known paintings, Race Riot reproduces a photograph from a civil rights march in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
What was supposed to be a peaceful protest against the state’s segregation laws by the city’s African American community soon turned ugly when the police brought out attack dogs and fire hoses to disperse the crowd. Making front page news all over the world, photographs of the riot by Charles Moore forced president John F Kennedy to make historic changes to the law and inspired Warhol to reproduce them, sharing in his own way, this portrayal of injustice and ensuring their place in art history.
Another significant work from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series, Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) made headlines when it sold for US$71,720,000 at Christie’s in 2007, a spectacular price for the time.
Once again, repetition plays a key part in transforming a tragic scene into a classic work of Pop Art which uses the industrial technique of silkscreening to reproduce a newsreel image over and over until the viewer becomes numb to its meaning. As Warhol said in an interview at the time, “When you see a gruesome image over and over again, it really doesn’t have any effect”, an idea that has worrying echoes in the 24 hour news culture of our present day.
In 1962 JFK visited France on a state visit during which his wife Jackie, who was adored by the press and public, managed to persuade the French president to allow the Mona Lisa to go on an unprecedented tour of the United States. The next year the painting crossed the Atlantic accompanied by a high-security convoy and extensive media coverage. As a result, thousands of Americans queued to see the masterpiece at its first stop, the National Gallery of Art in Washington before it travelled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where Warhol saw it.
He began work on the silkscreen version the following spring, using a reproduction taken from a brochure by the museum. With this, he made three screens: one was a full-length version of the work, while another showed the Mona Lisa cropped to a bust, and the third was just a detail of the figure’s crossed hands. Colored Mona Lisa, which sold for US$56,165,000, all three come together in a vibrant display of colour and composition.
As well as Campbell’s Soup Cans and Brillo Boxes, Warhol was particularly fond of reproducing Coca Cola’s iconic branding. From the swirly writing of the logo to their red and white labels and elegant glass bottles, Coke held a timeless appeal for the father of Pop Art, who saw it as a great leveller thanks to its ubiquity and popularity.
In his 1975 book, The Philosophy Of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) he wrote, “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
Coca-Cola  strips the brand of its colour, offering a simple outline of the bottle and logo with the words ‘trade mark registered’ clearly delineated, perhaps in a tongue in cheek reference to his own disregard for copyright.