Top 10 Most Valuable Warhol Paintings
One might say that the very concept of visibility fascinated Warhol. He seemed to possess a radical appreciation for almost everything presented to the public consumer. His body of work could be described, generally, as his own overarching perception of the American spectacle, and how it reshapes our understanding of the world. To get a better look, let’s check out a very acclaimed—and very pricey—selection of his artwork. Here is Andy Warhol’s top 10 most valuable paintings.
10. Double Elvis [Ferus Type], 1963 – $53,000,000
Could the world handle more than one Elvis Presley? When Elvis sang “Here I am … a lonely man” he wasn’t talking about this painting. Just when you thought Elvis couldn’t get any popular, Andy made two of him. Warhol’s Double Elvis [Ferus Type] debuted in 1963 at the Ferus Gallery in Hollywood, and pays homage to a sacred overlap of Hollywood stardom, cinema, and the Wild West.
The image of Elvis comes from a publicity shot taken for the movie Flaming Star, showing him dressed as a gunslinger. Elvis reached the level of international fame that Warhol couldn’t resist, and thus he became a mass-produced hollywood product not unlike the repetitive and profitable model of the Western film genre. By using silver paint with the silkscreen image on linen, Warhol could present Elvis as the concept he had become: a legendary Hollywood archetype suspended in time forever on the silver screen. Almost six decades later, Double Elvis [Ferus Type] sold for $53,000,000 at Christie’s in New York, on May 15th, 2019. It is signed and dated “elvis Andy Warhol 63” on the reverse.
9. Colored Mona Lisa, 1963 – $56,165,000
A reimagined Renaissance painting ranks as Warhol’s ninth most valuable painting. If Andy Warhol’s project was to chronicle the history of pop culture, there’s no way he could have forgotten about the Mona Lisa. In 1963, Warhol produced a group of seven canvases sourced from Da Vinci’s magnum opus, and one of the largest ones in that collection is Colored Mona Lisa. The painting depicts one of the most important and recognizable pieces of art history reproduced like a commodity in various colors. The piece thus illustrates the intersection of consumer culture and high art. Warhol undoubtedly appreciated the ubiquity and historical significance of the Mona Lisa as well as Da Vinci’s fame and legacy as a world figure and Renaissance man. The media of the piece includes silkscreen inks, graphite, and the canvas. Colored Mona Lisa sold for $56,165,000 on May 13th, 2015, at Christie’s in New York. It is signed “Andy Warhol 1963” on the verso.
8. Coca-Cola , 1962 – $57,285,000
“You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, 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.” Andy’s quote about Coca Cola reveals a lot about the mentality behind his work and the positive spirit he tried to transmit to his audience. He loved the ubiquity and perfection of mass-produced commodities, and wanted others to notice it too.
In Andy’s memoir, Popism: The Warhol Sixties, he recalls comparing this Coca Cola to another more expressionist one he painted, with gestured brushstrokes and more of a traditional artist’s touch. That day in 1962 became pivotal for the mentality of his career, when he had the revelation that he preferred the “cold, no comment paintings”. The ones that reflect our society in a stark manner and are void of the author’s presence.
The iconic curvy bottle entered Warhol’s catalogue on a nearly 6 foot cotton canvas, painted with casein paint. Coca Cola  sold for $57,285,000 at Christie’s in New York on November 12th, 2013. Signed “Andy Warhol” on the turning edge.
7. Sixty Last Suppers, 1986 – $68,833,500
The 7th of Warhol’s most valuable paintings is one of his most grandiose works. Warhol’s Last Supper series invokes his selfhood as a deeply religious man and serves as a memento mori for us and Warhol himself. The piece depicts Christ in the mechanical-reproduction language of the 20th century. Perhaps eerily, it comprised Andy’s final work and last exhibition of his life. In 1985, Warhol’s friend and dealer Alexandre Iolas commissioned a series based on Da Vinci’s Last Supper for an exhibition at the Credito Valtellinese bank in Milan. Warhol, having re-imagined Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Boticelli’s Birth of Venus earlier in his career, embraced the opportunity for what would be the last creative endeavor of his life. The piece is 32 ¾ feet long, almost 10 feet tall, and depicts Jesus Christ as Andy’s final superstar reproduced in silver blocks like grainy tv screens.
Sixty Last Suppers is acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, and sold for $68,833,500 at Christie’s in New York on November 15th, 2017.
6. Race Riot, 1964 – $62,885,000
In May of 1963 America’s civil rights movement became strikingly more visible to the public. The horrors of Black America’s fight for equality began flooding the nation’s media. Particularly, a peaceful protest of southern segregation laws turned violent in Birmingham shocked the country. Though most of the nation understood the presence of racial inequality, photos of police officers violently hosing down black protests and attacking them with police dogs truly revealed the grim reality.
Photographer Charles Moore is especially famous for documenting the racial struggle that plagued Alabama. Using Moore’s photographs (found in Life magazine), Andy repurposed the media of racial injustice into his chronology of the United States’ history and culture. Race Riot, from a group of 10 dramatic silkscreen paintings made between 1963 and 1964 concerning the events in Birmingham, emphasizes the ability of mass media to reveal, manipulate, and otherwise touch the people of a nation.
Of the larger group, it is uniquely red, white, and blue, on a 60×66 inch linen canvas. It sold for $62,885,000 at Christie’s in New York on May 13th, 2014.
5. Men in Her Life, 1962 – $63,362,500
The photograph depicted in this painting comes from an article about Liz Taylor in a 1962 issue of Life magazine. The actress achieved high celebrity status, and was a big inspiration for Warhol. The photo shows Liz Taylor with her third husband, Mike Todd, and her fourth, Eddie Fisher, walking with his then current wife Debbie Reynolds. Most importantly, we see Taylor and Fisher smiling at one another, each walking closely with their spouse. Phillips auction house (who sold the work) describes the painting as containing many elements key to Warhol’s career: “celebrity, wealth, scandal, sex, death, Hollywood, [and] icons of American life.”
Less than a year later, Todd’s private jet “The Liz” crashed over New Mexico, killing him. Taylor was later harassed at Todd’s funeral by gawking onlookers, creating a national news story. Soon after, the widowed Liz Taylor struck up a romantic relationship with Eddie Fisher, still married. After their affair became public knowledge, both were heavily criticized. As a result, the public villainized Fisher, and the affair ruined his career. On the other hand, the publicity promoted Taylor’s financial success, who was already the highest paid actress in the world. It’s no doubt the photo was uncanny to Warhol, mainly because it shows how meaning of an innocent picture can become cloaked in irony and scandal.
This painting is the largest of the Men in Her Life series, at 84 ½ x 82 ¼ inches. In silkscreen and pencil, it sold for $63,362,500 at Phillips on November 8th, 2010.
4. Four Marlons, 1966 – $69,605,000
Warhol’s 4th most valuable painting recalls his celebrity portraits of figures like Marilyn Monroe and Mick Jagger. Warhol first reproduced Marlon Brando’s publicity shot from the 1953 movie The Wild One in 1963 with Silver Marlon. This time, three years later, Andy re-produced the same image four times in a grid on an unprimed canvas. This way, he invokes the raw feeling of the photograph itself. Marlon Brando, a huge icon of the 20th century, leans against his motorcycle with a classic and reckless biker look.
According to Christie’s, Warhol likely printed this painting on raw canvas in response to changing themes in the art world. Mainly, Abstract Expressionism was on the rise, and therefore challenging the barebones style of Pop art. The manly subject is also a reminder of the machismo culture that infused Abstract Expressionism. Through Brando, Warhol emphasizes the machismo trend. By placing this symbolic figure on an empty canvas, expressionism and pop-art clash together. Ultimately, the painting satirizes the expressionist mood, but comes alive as pop-art: the artist is entirely absent.
Four Marlons sold for $69,605,000 at Christie’s in New York on November 12th, 2014. It measures 81×65 inches, with mixed media and silkscreen ink on unprimed linen canvas.
3. Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), 1963 – $71,720,000
From Andy’s Death and Disaster series, Green Car Crash (Burning Car) marks those unsettling moments in our lives when everyday objects become horrific and violent. The series is surely part of the more disturbing and macabre images that we see from Warhol, like his Electric Chair portfolio. On a normal suburban street, a flipped car burns and smoke billows high into the air. The painting mixes everyday calmness with a disaster, and presents itself in a haunting newspaper-like tone.
Photographer John Whitehead took the original photograph, which appeared in Newsweek in June 163. The article says: “End of the Chase: Pursued by a state trooper investigating a hit-and-run accident, commercial fisherman Richard J. Hubbard, 24, sped down a Seattle street at more than 60 mph, overturned, and hit a utility pole. The impact hurled him from the car, impaling him on a climbing spike. He died 35 minutes later in a hospital”. A truly grotesque work from Warhol’s catalogue, the painting sold for $71,725,000 at Christie’s in New York on May 16th, 2007. The media includes synthetic polymer, silkscreen ink and acrylic on linen, and measures 90×80 inches.
2. Triple Elvis [Ferus Type], 1963 – $81,925,000
Elvis returns again as the 2nd most valuable Warhol painting. Exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in Hollywood along with several other Elvis works including the Double Elvis [Ferus Type], Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] shows three proud Elvises dressed as a gunslinger for the 1960 film Flaming Star. Elvis became a larger-than-life icon of American pop culture, and the entertainment industry quickly co-opted him from the music scene. Warhol’s Elvis paintings deliver Andy’s interpretation of the singer turned actor as a mass-produced product of Hollywood. Elvis is reproduced identically three times, and shown on a silver canvas like a tv screen. Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] was created in 1963, showing the ideal America masculine subject overlapping in perfect detailed repetition. The painting’s media is silkscreen ink and silver paint on linen. It reached an impressive price of $81,925,000 at Christie’s in New York on November 12th, 2014.
1 Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), 1963 – $105,445,000
Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) is a remarkable and disturbing piece from Andy Warhol’s Death and Disaster series, which includes other works like Electric Chair. It comes from his more terror-inspired and serious side of the oeuvre. The painting, completed in 1963, comes during the United States’ golden age. At the time, industrial acceleration and economic prosperity made up the engine of American society.
In the piece we see a body crushed inside a mutilated car: an event which could impact any American person. The painting is relevant to us all, as a grim reminder of mortality. It is complete with an empty and fading second half, perhaps signifying the silence and oceanic emptiness of loss. Moreover, the work calls to mind the trajectory of industrial and technological advancement, from the stagecoach to the automobile, and invokes the potential terror of modern machinery.
Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) completes the top 10 most valuable Warhol paintings. It is one of seven disaster paintings in the awesome double canvas format (the others are Red Disaster, Blue Electric Chair, Mustard Race Riot, Orange Car Crash 14 Times, Black and White Disaster #4, and Orange Car Crash). The massive painting measures 105 x 164 1/8 inches, and includes silkscreen ink and spray paint on two canvases. It sold for $105,445,000 at Sotheby’s on November 13th, 2013, making it Andy Warhol’s most valuable painting of all time.