Andy Warhol’s “Michael Jackson”

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson National Portrait Gallery

The painting that Vered Gallery co-owner Janet Lehr calls the "quintessential painting" was removed from the gallery’s silent auction, which ended Sunday. Andy Warhol’s portrait of Michael Jackson represents an intersection of the King of Pop and the King of Pop Art, Lehr said. After a larger-than-expected response, the painting was pulled.

The painting sold for $278,500 in May, but pre-sale estimates this time around were as high as $10 million—the boost in price most certainly comes as a response to Jackson’s death in late June. The piece will still be sold, but gallery owners Vered and Lehr thought it best to give potential buyers more time.

While this work might be out of the spotlight for the time being, a similar print was put on display at the Portrait Gallery over the weekend. The image is "rights restricted," and therefore we can't reproduce it, but view it here.

Both pieces depict Jackson in his red leather jacket from the "Thriller" video. He won a record eight Grammys for the Thriller album in 1984, the same year both portraits were produced. The Portrait Gallery’s version graced the cover of TIME magazine on March 19, 1984, just a few weeks after the Grammys. The gallery acquired the painting in 1984 through an agreement with TIME magazine. A few years earlier, TIME had decided to donate portrait cover art to the gallery including an original donation of some 600 pieces.

The painting was put up late last week in the Recent Acquisitions hallway, across from Shepard Fairey’s portrait of President Obama. The inscription "In Memoriam" was painted on the wall above the piece. Curator James Barber says the response to the painting has been favorable in the past. "It's always a popular painting," he says. "The public seems to enjoy seeing it."

The painting has been regularly displayed in the Contemporary Americans exhibit, one of the musuem's permament exhibits, but was not on view when the singer died. No date is set to pull the portrait, but drop by soon to pay your respects to the King of Pop.

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