The Wild History of the Warhol Marilyn That’s Set to Fetch $200 Million

Karp and Castelli both attended the opening reception and walked away stunned by the power and beauty of the Marilyns. Castelli, who was probably as impressed by the strong sales as the paintings themselves, confessed to Karp that he had been wrong about Warhol. That mistake was soon rectified as Warhol was asked to join the Leo Castelli Gallery after his second Stable Gallery show—another historic display that featured his iconic Brillo Boxes.

It’s also interesting to note that the Marilyn paintings proved so popular that, in 1967, Warhol’s studio released a portfolio of 10 Marilyn prints. The set was originally priced at $500. Many of the sets were broken up so the prints could be sold individually. Today, you would be lucky to find a complete portfolio with matching numbers, in pristine condition, for $3.5 million. But these are, of course, multiples, and a far cry from the 1964 works.

As for that original group of five Marilyns, they went on to acquire a mystique all their own. In 1964, a performance artist named Dorothy Podber walked into Warhol’s Factory, saw four of the pieces leaning against the wall, and asked to “shoot” them (presumably with a camera). She then whipped out a pistol from her purse and shot a hole right between the eyes of the paintings. A stunned Warhol eventually had them restored—to various degrees—and the canvases became known as the “Shot Marilyns.” There’s no doubt this outrageous story added then and now to the value of these works. The irony was that only four years later, in 1968, the deranged groupie Valerie Solanas also pulled a gun from her purse. But this time, it was Warhol who was shot—and came perilously close to dying from the encounter.

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