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 screenprints 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 in at her home in Brentwood, Las Angeles and taken 40 pills of barbituates, ending her life.
In person, the flat gold field reads like a Byzantine alterpiece, a wide field left empty for veneration, prayer. Warhol would turn Marilyn into an enduring cultural artifact through endless repetition, but in Gold Marilyn Monroe, he created a memorial.