Liz Taylor Stars as Muse and Icon


What would you pay for a painting of a recently-deceased Hollywood legend painted by an American icon, and with an excellent provenance?

The death of Elizabeth Taylor on Mar. 23 will undoubtedly create a market for all things Liz. On the higher end, a portrait of the actress by Andy Warhol will go on the block at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York as part of its contemporary sale on May 12. Titled Liz #5, it was painted by Warhol in 1963, the year of Cleopatra‘s release.

The piece is estimated to go for $20–30 million. It was originally owned by matriarchal New York dealer Ileana Sonnabend. Purchased from her estate by a private collector after her death in 2007, the work is the first from the Sonnabend estate to be offered at auction. Consigned to Phillips two weeks ago, the painting can be seen in a preview of lots being held Apr. 28–May 11.

The second highest price ever paid for a work by Warhol also features Elizabeth Taylor as its subject. Titled Men in her Life (1962), it shows a blurry grid of an image of Taylor with two of her husbands; it sold for $63.4 million in November 2010, also at Phillips. A work similar to Liz #5 was sold by actor Hugh Grant at Christie’s in 2007 for $23.6 million. (For anyone keeping score, Warhol’s Lemon Marilyn went for $28 million at Christie’s that same year.)

Over the years, Taylor has starred in works by many artists, including Tom Wesselmann, David LaChapelle, Richard Prince, Vik Muniz, Kathe Burkhart and Deborah Kass.’s online auctions currently offer a series of Elizabeth Taylor photographs and limited-edition screenprints starting as low as $1,500. The images come from Bob Willoughby, Marcello Geppetti, the Associated Press, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, and artist Russell Young.

Image Courtesy of Artists Rights Society (ARS)