"Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" by Andy Warhol is on display Monday in New York City after an announcement that it will go up for auction at Christie's this spring. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
March 21 (UPI) -- Christie's announced Monday it will place one of Andy Warhol's iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe under the gavel in what will likely be the most expensive 20th-century artwork to ever sell at auction.
Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn silkscreen print -- described as one of the rarest and most transcendent images in existence -- is expected to fetch up to $200 million, Christie's officials said during an unveiling event in New York.
An "unmatched example of 20th century art by the most important American artist," the work will lead the auction house's Marquee Week of sales in May, said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas.
The work is being offered for sale by the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich. All proceeds will benefit the foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children by establishing support systems centered on providing healthcare and educational programs.
With 100% of the proceeds going to charity, the sale of the single Warhol painting will constitute the highest grossing philanthropic auction since the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller was sold four years ago, Porter said.
Warhol's image of Monroe, created in 1964, is revered as a definitive work within his oeuvre -- as well as within the entire canon of art history.
He first began creating silkscreen reproductions of an original publicity still for Monroe's 1953 film Niagara by director Henry Hathaway following the starlet's tragic death in August 1962.
Warhol produced a total of five versions of the 40-inch by 40-inch square paintings between 1962 and 1964, each using a different shade of bright colors and silk-screening technique. The process was so difficult and time-consuming he never returned to it again, "and yet the image remains burned in the visual lexicon of art history," Christie's said.
"The spectacular portrait isolates the person and the star: Marilyn the woman is gone; the terrible circumstances of her life and death are forgotten," said Georg Frei, board chairman of the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation. "All that remains is the enigmatic smile that links her to another mysterious smile of a distinguished lady, the Mona Lisa."
Christie's officials said the painting will remain at its New York location in Rockefeller Center for one week, with by-appointment viewings available for the public.