If you want to sell art at high prices, you don't just need an extraordinary picture.

But preferably also a good story.

Take this one, for example: In the fall of 1964, up-and-coming pop artist Andy Warhol was visited in New York by a fellow artist named Dorothy Podber.

Podber discovered several of Warhol's silkscreens depicting actress Marilyn Monroe.

If she could shoot it, Podber asked the artist, who must have thought they were talking about "taking a photo," as the English term goes.

When he said yes, the visitor aimed a pistol at the pictures and shot through four of them.

Warhol was appalled.

Dennis Kremer

Editor in the “Value” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

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But the shot through – even though it has long since been repaired – made the pictures that were hit a special feature in the artist's work.

In fact, the auction house Christie's is now hoping to auction a print from the series with the only logical name "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" this Monday at a record price: the estimate for the work of art is 200 million dollars.

The most expensive work of all time?

This would make Warhol's Monroe the most expensive work of the 20th century, well ahead of Pablo Picasso's "Les femmes d'Alger", which changed hands in 2015 for $179.4 million (including buyer's premium).

Some even think it is possible that Warhol's print could come close to the most expensive work of art ever auctioned: Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi", which achieved the breathtaking price of 450.3 million dollars (including buyer's premium) in 2017.

Many find such sums obscene and are happy to certify that the art market has created a gigantic price bubble that will soon burst.

But even if a lot of useful things could be done with so much money, there is currently no sign of a bubble.

Instead, there are perfectly rational explanations for the Christie's estimate, although this does not necessarily mean

that a record price is actually achieved in the end.

Auctions always have an unpredictable element, which is what makes them so exciting.

Now it's logical that the auction house isn't asking millions just for Dorothy Podber's pistol shots, good as the story is.

Instead, the Christie's experts are guided by a simple economic law: the scarcer the supply, the higher the price.

At first glance, this may not make sense with Warhol, since it was his serial art production that made him famous.

But in the case of the Marilyn Monroe screenprint, the situation is different: "There are only four other comparable Monroe works from Warhol's early creative period, all of which he put his hand to to a much greater extent than later," says Dirk Boll, responsible for 20th and 21st century art at Christie's.

In Warhol's so-called "Factory" many assistants helped the artist.

1964, the year the Monroe screenprints were made,

"Trophy Art"

In addition to the eventful history of the picture, there is also a conciseness and a special originality of the work.

An estimated price of 200 million dollars does not result from this alone.

More elements are needed.

One has to do with a development that is derogatorily referred to in the art world as "trophy art."

This means that in order to achieve the highest prices, the work must also have a high recognition value for all laypeople.

Everyone is familiar with Marilyn Monroe, one of the icons of the 20th century. Warhol's style is also world-famous, which has made him a global brand.

This is important for the small group of buyers who are able to pay the asking price for the painting.

By buying it, they identify themselves as a member of the global money elite, which shows the rest of the world its financial limits.

Art thus becomes the ultimate status symbol, with which one can set oneself apart from the simple sports car driver and villa owner.

With art in this logic, however, you can only make a real impression if the special feature catches the eye of an inexperienced viewer.

In this respect, it should play into Christie's hands that the Netflix streaming service recently released the documentary "The Andy Warhol Diaries".

Because that only cements the artist's superstar status even more.

In order to determine a realistic estimated price, it is also important to have the right mixture of "knowledge of authority and good research", as Dirk Boll from Christie's calls it.

Good research means that the experts need to know when a work from the Monroe series was last sold and at what price.

This was in 2017. Hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin even paid more than $200 million for “Orange Marilyn” in a private sale at the time, which makes the current Christie's estimate appear almost conservative.

The “knowledge of dominance”, which is also important in the case of auction houses, is that they know as much as possible about the potential buyers.

This includes answers to questions such as: Who are the most important Warhol collectors in the world?

How much money have you previously spent on Warhol, how much would you be willing to spend this time?

However, such calculations are never entirely without risk: there are also Warhol works that only achieve significantly lower prices – in March, Christie's auctioned off one of the artist's famous Mao paintings for the comparatively low sum of just under 45,000 dollars.

However, Warhol made the large number of 250 of these Mao pictures.

In addition, a good story is missing in this case: Nothing is known of bullet holes.

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