In 1984, pop artist and “15 Minutes of Fame” phrase-coiner Andy Warhol painted a portrait of Michael Jackson that captured the legend at the apex of his career. Yesterday, that painting sold at an auction hosted by the Vered Gallery in East Hampton, New York. The buyer requested anonymity, but gallery owner Janet Lehr revealed that the winning bid was over $1 million (though speculation was that the painting could have fetched as much as $10 million, which wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility — the average sale price for a Warhol is around $17 million). Lehr acquired the piece from an anonymous seller shortly before Jackson’s death on June 25, which cost her just under $300,000. The auction was originally scheduled to close last month, but the overwhelming response forced the postponement.
In 1981, Warhol paid a visit to Jackson at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where he and his brothers (including brother Randy, who is also in the photo below) were performing. Warhol was an artist obsessed with fame, and he often toyed with images of international superstars like Marilyn Monroe. It’s no wonder he was interested in Jackson.
Three years later, Warhol was commissioned by Time magazine to paint Jackson’s portrait, which shows the singer wearing the jacket from the “Thriller” video. The version Time published has a yellow background (and that version sits in the National Portrait Gallery), but the just-sold piece is in green, hence the name of the painting: “Michael Jackson (Green).”