Andy Warhol made many, many paintings and prints of the actress and American sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, transforming her from a pop icon into a pop art product. It’s no accident that Warhol painted soup cans and pop stars in the same style—he explored celebrity as a force that transformed people into commercial objects. The Gold Marilyn is different. While the Marilyn Diptych multiplied the actress by 50, and his famous 1967 series of colored screen prints blew her up to 5 times life-size, here Marilyn sits alone in a sea of gold, hung in the Museum of Modern Art at eye-level with the viewer. It’s a portrait both intimate and isolating. It is also Warhol’s first painting of Marilyn, created just a few months after she had locked herself in her bedroom at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles and taken 40 pills of barbiturates, ending her life.
In person, the flat gold field reads like a Byzantine altarpiece, a wide field left empty for veneration, or prayer. Over the course of his career Warhol painted Marilyn many, many times, reflecting her status a cultural artifact through endless repetition, but in Gold Marilyn Monroe, he created a memorial.
Reed Enger, "Gold Marilyn Monroe," in Obelisk Art History, Published September 18, 2017; last modified October 22, 2022, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/artists/andy-warhol/gold-marilyn-monroe/.