One of the things that has always fascinated society’s elites, has definitely been fine art and its possession. One of the greatest things about art is that it’s purely subjective. Nowhere else does the phrase ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure apply more aptly than in the world of art. There is an incredibly diverse and varied spectrum of works and everybody has their own favourite style, artistic periods and artists. People are so passionate about collecting art that it’s no surprise that the original pieces by some of the most iconic masters have been sold at auctions for astronomically high prices. When it comes to most expensive paintings, a lot of people might think of famous paintings like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. However, that is a near priceless and will probably always stay on display in the Louvre, Paris and never be put on sale.
Throughout the history of the world’s most expensive paintings, many high profile works of art have exchanged hands in the secondary market/auction rooms, for more money than half of a third world country’s GDP. For this list, we have used the inflation adjusted price (in US dollars), while also mentioning the date of sale, the parties involved, and the auction house (if applicable). Without further ado, here are the 10 most expensive paintings ever sold:
10. Nu couché (Reclining Nude) by Amedeo Modigliani ($180.1 million)
Painted in – 1917/18; Sold on – November 9, 2015; Seller – Laura Mattioli Rossi; Buyer – Liu Yiqian; Auction house – Christie’s, New York.
This oil on canvas masterpiece is one from the legendary series if nudes done by Modigliani. This is one of the most popular paintings as it pertains to reproduction and exhibition across the globe.
9. Les Femmes d’Alger (The Women of Algiers) (“Version O”) by Pablo Picasso ($189.6 million)
Painted in – 1955; Sold on – May 11, 2015; Seller – Ganz collection; Buyer – Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani; Auction house – Christie’s, New York.
This is from a series of 15 oil on canvas paintings made by the Cubism and Surrealism maestro as a tribute to his favourite artists. Ten versions were sold by the Ganz family to the Saidenberg Gallery. Versions C, H, K, M, and O were left with the family and were sold after the passing of Victor and Sally Ganz.
8. Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembradt ($190 million)
Painted in – 1634; Sold on – September 2015; Seller – Éric de Rothschild; Buyer – Rijksmuseum and Louvre; Auction house – Private sale.
This Rembrandt classic, a pair of wedding portraits was owned by the Rothschild family for many years before the Louvre museum and Rijksmuseum pooled in to buy these portraits for display.
7. No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko ($197 million)
Painted in – 1951; Sold on – August 2014; Seller – Cherise Moueix; Buyer – Dmitry Rybolovlev; Auction house – Private sale.
This oil on canvas, Abstract expressionist masterpiece features large swathes of colour, separated by hazy and uneven shades.
6. Wasserschlangen II (Water Serpents II) by Gustav Klimt ($197.7 million)
Painted in – 1904-07; Sold on – circa 2013; Seller – Yves Bouvier; Buyer – Dmitry Rybolovlev; Auction house – Private sale.
This oil on canvas, Symbolist masterpiece was the artist’s way to show the feminine body in an erotic context without fearing censorship.
5. Number 17A by Jackson Pollock ($211 million)
Painted in – 1948; Sold on – September 2015; Seller – David Geffen Foundation; Buyer – Kenneth C. Griffin; Auction house – Private sale.
Pollock is probably the most important American contributor to the Abstract expressionist movement and it’s only fitting that his oil on fibreboard masterpiece is on the world’s most expensive paintings list.
4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry) by Paul Gauguin ($222 million)
Painted in – 1892; Sold on – September 2014; Seller – Heirs of Rudolf Staechelin; Buyer – State of Qatar; Auction house – Private sale.
This Post-impressionist, oil on canvas masterpiece was in the Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland for almost 50 years until it was sold in 2015. Before being sold, this painting was also on display at the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen.
3. The Card Players by Paul Cèzanne ($278 million)
Painted in – 1892/93; Sold on – April 2011; Seller – George Embiricos; Buyer – State of Qatar; Auction house – Private sale.
This is a series of five Post-impressionist oil paintings made during Cézanne’s final period of art. The versions have varying sizes and number of players. The ridiculously rich Royal Family of Qatar is the current possessor of the country.
2. Interchange by Willem de Kooning ($317 million)
Painted in – 1955; Sold on – September 2015; Seller – David Geffen Foundation; Buyer – Kenneth C. Griffin; Auction house – Private sale.
This famous oil on canvas Abstract expressionist painting is a giant 79 by 69 inch masterpiece which was the most expensive painting ever sold until November, 2017. The painting’s owner, Kenneth C. Griffin has loaned the painting to the Art Institute of Chicago.
1. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci ($460.3 million)
Painted in – circa 1500; Sold on – November 15, 2017; Seller – Dmitry Rybolovlev; Buyer – Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism; Auction house – Christie’s, New York.
The most expensive painting ever sold is also one of the most controversial. Although many scholars consider it to be da Vinci’s original work, there are others who believe he only contributed certain elements to it. This oil on walnut painting depicts Jesus Christ in Renaissance dress, making the sign of the cross with his right hand and holding a transparent crystal orb in his left, representing his role as Salvator Mundi (Latin for ‘saviour of the world’).