The Wild History of the Warhol Marilyn That Will Raise $200 Million

Karp and Castelli both attended the opening reception and walked away, stunned by the strength and beauty of the Marilyns. Castelli, probably as impressed with the strong sales as the paintings themselves, confessed to Karp that he had been wrong about Warhol. That mistake was quickly rectified when Warhol was asked to join the Leo Castelli Gallery after his second Stable Gallery show – another historic exhibition featuring his iconic Brillo Boxes.

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

As for that original group of five Marilyns, they took on a mystique all of 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 took a pistol from her bag and shot a hole between the eyes of the paintings. A stunned Warhol eventually had them restored – to varying degrees – and the canvases became known as the “Shot Marilyns.” There is no doubt that this scandalous story has increased the value of these works then and now. The irony was that it wasn’t until four years later, in 1968, that 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 the encounter’s death.

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