Andy Warhol’s White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times) (1963) will headline Sotheby’s New York contemporary evening auction this November with an estimated price tag of at least $80m, one of the largest estimates ever placed on a work by the artist at auction. The work—a 12-ft-tall mixed-media monochrome painting, depicting a suburban car crash reproduced 19 times over—will go on offer on 16 November alongside works by Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, and Joan Mitchell.
White Disaster hails from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series from the 1960s, in which the artist repurposed his famous serialised method of image reproduction to create works related to violence, death, and destruction. The series produced some of the most commercially successful works of Warhol’s career, including Green car crash, Green burning car I (1963), which sold for $71.7m at a Christie’s New York in 2007, and Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), which made $105m in 2013—the second most expensive auction price ever achieved by the artist. This sale was the last time a Death and Disaster painting appeared at auction
In May, Warhol’s screenprint of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) achieved $195m at an evening sale held by Christie’s New York. The result is not only Warhol’s auction record, but also the highest price ever achieved by an American artist at auction.
Should it squarely meet its $80m estimate, White Disaster would be one of the top five most expensive Warhol lots at auction, just behind Triple Elvis (Ferus Type), which sold for $81.9m in 2014 and is currently the artist’s third-most expensive work at auction.
White Disaster, which has been in a private collection for more than 25 years, has played a leading role in many museum exhibitions dedicated to the artist’s work, including shows at the Tate Modern, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The painting will be included in a public pre-sale exhibition that opens on 4 November, marking the first time the work has been displayed in public in more than 15 years.