The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold. An Updated List

A detailed and and frequently updated list of the most expensive paintings ever

by G. Fernández – theartwolf.com
There are a lot of websites displaying “the 10 most expensive paintings ever sold” or similar lists. But unfortunately, most of these lists are incorrect, often being obsoletes, often ignoring the private sales and showing only those pictures sold at auction. This list showcases paintings sold at either public auctions or private sales, and it is frequently updated. In addition to ‘confirmed’ sales, at the end of the list you can find a few works whose price has not being confirmed despite the rumours about exorbitant sums


1. PAUL CÉZANNE
“The Card Players”
, 1892/93
$250 million 

The Card Players
Private sale, 2011. Seller: George Embiricos. Buyer: Royal Family of Qatar.

This is the last version of this famous composition by Paul Cézanne still in private hands. The fabulous psychological intensity in the faces of the players make this painting a masterpiece of post-impressionist art.


2. JACKSON POLLOCK
“Number 5, 1948”, 1948
$140 million 

pollock
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Unknown (rumoured to be Mexican businessman David Martinez)

Right now, this stunning “drip” by Jackson Pollock is the most expensive contemporary painting ever sold, though the exact price was never confirmed (but the price displayed here is generally accepted to be true). The exorbitant sum demonstrates not only the strenght of the Art market, but also the increasing interest for the contemporary works of Art.


3. WILLEM DE KOONING
“Woman III”, 1952-53
$137.5 million 

Woman-III-Willem-de-Kooning
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Steven Cohen

This painting is the only “Woman” by Willem de Kooning still in private hands. One of this women described by T. Hess as “black goddesses”


4. GUSTAV KLIMT
“Adele Bloch-bauer I”, 1907
$135 million 

portrait-of-adele-bloch-bauer-i
Private sale, 2006. Buyer: Ronald Lauder.

The acquisition of this iconic work by cosmetic magnate Ronald Lauder caused a shock in the Art world, not only for the spectacular sum paid for it, but also for the way it was sold, far away from the noisy auction houses. The painting was part of a group of five canvases which had been recently returned to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The Nazis confiscated his paintings during the World War II, and after the war, the canvases were placed at the National Gallery of Austria in 1948.


5. EDVARD MUNCH
“The Scream”, 1895
$119.9 million 

scream-16_6155
Sotheby’s New York , May 2012. Buyer: anonymous

This iconic work is the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. The work is the most colorful of the four versions of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece ‘The Scream’, and the only one still in private hands


6. PABLO PICASSO
“Nude, Green Leaves and Bust”, 1932
$106.5 million 

Nude_Green_Leaves_and_Bust_by_Picasso
Christie’s New York , May 2010. Buyer: anonymous

This sensual and colorful masterpiece the most expensive work by Picasso ever sold at auction. The work, formerly in the collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, had been never exhibited in public since 1961


7. PABLO PICASSO
“Garçon a la pipe”, 1904
$104.1 million 

garcon a la pipe
Sotheby’s New York , May 2004. Buyer: anonymous

The sale of this young smoker was a milestone in the Art auctions world. It broke the record that Vincent van Gogh held since 1990, and it was the first time that the $100 million barrier was broken. Although the name of the buyer was not revealed, some sources says that he could be Guido Barilla, the Italian pasta magnate.


8. ANDY WARHOL
“Eight Elvises”, 1963
$100 million 

Eight Elvises
Private sale, 2008. Buyer: anonymous

This unique work by Warhol, measuring over 12 feet long, had been at the collection of Roman collector Annibale Berlingieri for over 40 years. It surpassed the previous world record for a work by Warhol, the $71.7 million paid at Christie’s New York in 2007 for “Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I)”


9. PABLO PICASSO
“Dora Maar au chat”, 1941
$95.2 million 

Dora Maar au chat
Sotheby’s New York , May 2006. Buyer: anonymous

Dora Maar (1907-1997) met Picasso in 1930, and their relationship lasted until 1946. A native from Paris, raised in Argentina and therefore fluent in Spanish, Maar was one of Picasso’s favourite models. This painting, measuring 130- 97 cm, was recently rediscovered and authenticated by Picasso’s daughter, Maya Widmaier Picasso. You can read theArtWolf’s article informing about this sale in this link.


10. TITIAN
“Diana and Actaeon”, 1556-1559
$91 million 

Titian-Diana-and-Actaeon
Private sale, February 2009. Buyer: United Kingdom

This work have all the splendour and glory of the best of Titian’s ‘painted poetries’. It was previously at the Duke of Sutherland collection, who offered it to the U.K. It has a “sister picture”, “Diana and Callisto”, bought for £45 million ($72 million) in 2012.


 

MORE PRICES OVER $80 MILLION

Gustav Klimt “Adele Bloch-bauer II “, 1912 – $87.9 million(2006) – Sold only a few months later than Klimt’s first version of Adele, this extremely appealing canvas was the star lot in a highly succesful auction in which four works by Klimt -including this- totalled a stunning $192 million

adele2

Mark Rothko: “Orange, Red, Yellow”, 1961 – $86.9 million(2012) – This 1961 painting was the centerpiece of the Pincus Collection, sold at Christie’s on May 8 2012.

marc_rothkos_orange_red_yellow_ycs4a

Francis Bacon: “Tryptich, 1976”, 1976 – $86.3 million(2008) – Francis Bacon is one of the most sought-after names in the Art market, and this work easily surpassed its impressive $70 million pre-sale estimate at Sotheby’s.

FrancisBaconTriptych1976

Vincent van Gogh: “Portrait of Doctor Gachet”, 1890 – $82.5 million (1990) – The story about this famous and brilliant work resumes by itself the “Japanese buyer boom” of the late 80s and early 90s: great painting, sold for an astronomic amount of money to a Japanese buyer (Ryoei Saito), who was later ruined, and the whereabouts of the painting are now unknown. Some sources places it in Europe , waiting for its return to the Art market

van_gogh_gachet

Claude Monet: “Le bassin aux nymphéas”, 1919 – $80.6 million (2008) – This green pictorial symphony almost duplicated it pre-sale highest estimate and smashed the previous auction record for a Monet when it was auctioned at Christie’s London, June 2008

08_Monet_lilies

Jasper Johns: “False Start”, 1959 – $80 million (2006) – This iconic work by Johns, sold by David Geffen (see Pollock’s ‘Number 5’ and Kooning’s ‘Woman’), is the highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist

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Andy Warhol: “Turquoise Marilyn”, 1964 – $80 million(2007) – Bought by Mr. Steve Cohen, the price was not confirmed but is generally accepted to be true

turquoise-marilyn_andy-warhol

 

MORE PRICES OVER $70 MILLION

Pierre Auguste Renoir: “Le moulin de la Galette”, 1876 –$78.1 million (1990) – Another victim of the Japanese “buy it and forget it” boom was this masterpiece by Renoir, the little sister of the version currently exhibited at the Orsay. The painting was bought by Ryoei Saito (see Van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet) for $78.1 million at Sotheby’s, 1990, and sold in 1997 to a “European private collector” for $50 million

dance_at_le_moulin_de_la_galette

Peter Paul Rubens: “Massacre of the innocents”1610/11– $76.7 million (£49.5 million) – Bought by Kenneth Thompson at Sotheby’s London, July 2002. The flamboyant and dramatic work by Rubens -though recently some voices discussing its authenticity have been heard- could also fight for the title of “most unexpected success”: Christie’s had estimated its price at a mere £5 million

Rubens_massacre

Mark Rothko: “White center (yellow, pink and lavender on rose)”, 1950 – $72.8 million (2007) – Once in the collection of David Rockefeller, the work was sold at Sotheby’s New York for more than $72 million, making it one of the most expensive contemporary artworks ever sold at auction

003_8317rothko

Titian: “Diana and Callisto”, 1556-59 – $72 million (2012) – The Duke of Sutherland offered the painting to the United Kingdom for £45 million in 2009. Later, the Duke and his family agreed to a further reduction of the asking price to £45 million.

diana-and-callisto-1559

Andy Warhol: “Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car)”, 1963 – $71.7 million (2007) – Sold two days after the work above, in a record $384 million sale of contemporary Art

Andy Warhol - DISASTER SERIES

Vincent van Gogh: “Portrait of the artiste sans barbe”, 1889-$71.5 million (1998) – Van Gogh once again. The sale of this great picture -not a masterpiece, however- represented an extraordinary success -the auction house had estimated it in less than a half of its final price- and began the recuperation of the Art market after the crisis of the middle 90s.

van_gogh_sans_barbe

Titian: “Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos”, 1533 – $70 million(2004) – A sum never confirmed, but also never denied, by its buyer, the Getty Museum. The glorious painting -it worths every dollar paid for it- was exhibited for many years in the Louvre Museum, lent by the owners, and in fact the Parisian Museum had the opportunity of acquire it for a sum much lower than the $70 million paid by the Californian museum.

Titian_avalos

MORE PRICES OVER $60 MILLION

Amedeo Modigliani: “Nude Sitting on a Divan (La Belle Romaine)”, 1917 – $68.9 million (2010) – World auction record for a Modigliani

nude

Thomas Eakins: “The Gross clinic”, 1875 – $68 million(2006) – The picture, previously in the Thomas Jefferson University, was purchased in november 2006 by the National Gallery of Washington and the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, setting a record for a 19th-century American painting.

gross_clinic

Andy Warhol: “Men in her life”, 1962 – $63.4 million (2010) – Sold at Phillips de Pury & Company

Andy Warhol Men in Her Life

Willem de Kooning: “Police Gazette”, 1955 – $63 million(2006) – Bought by Steven Cohen, at the time one of the leading forces on the Art market (see Kooning’s ‘Woman III’), this acquisition -completed just months before his failed attempt to purchase Picasso’s “The dream”- is still one of the highest prices ever paid for a work by a contemporary artist.

12geff_CA1.650

Paul Cezanne: “Rideau, crouchon et compotier”, 1893/94 –$60.5 million (1999) – World auction record for a Cézanne

rideau

Kazimir Malevich: “Suprematist Composition”, 1916 – $60 million (2008) – The painting was once in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, and then it was returned to the artist’s heirs.

malevich.amsterdam

MORE PRICES OVER $50 MILLION

Vincent van Gogh: “Wheat field with cypresses”, 1889 – $57 million (1993) – The third van Gogh in this list. The price is really spectacular if we consider that it was paid in 1993, in the middle of the recession after the boom of the late 80s. The philanthropist Walter Annenberg lent the work to the Metropolitan Museum shortly afterwards.

hb_1993.132

Pablo Picasso: “Femme aux bras croisés”, 1904 – $55 million (2000)

pablo-picasso-femme-aux-bras-croises

Vincent van Gogh: “Irises”, 1888 – $53.9 million (1991) – Later resold to the Getty Museum in Malibú, California

van gogh -irises

Francis Bacon: “Study for Innocent X”, 1962 – $52.7 million (2007) – Sold at the same auction in which Mark Rothko’s “White center (yellow, pink and lavender on rose)” went for $72.8 million (see above)

Study_after_Velazquez's_Portrait_of_Pope_Innocent_X

Pablo Picasso: “Les noces de Pierrette”, 1904 – $51.9 million (1989)

Les noces de Pierrette

 

TRUE OR HYPE? NOT CONFIRMED SUMS

LEONARDO DA VINCI(attributed to)
“Madonna dei fusi”, 1501
$150 million 

Leonardo_fusi
Private sale, late 90s. Buyer: private collector, New Work

Let’s put a lot of question marks on this sum. In fact, it is almost sure that this almost offensive number is an exaggerated hype. Nevertheless, the spectacular price suggested -it would be the most expensive painting ever sold- deserves to be commented here. You can read more about this painting in this article

 

VINCENT VAN GOGH
“Self-portrait with bandaged ear”, 1889
$90 million 

van_gogh_bandaged
Private sale, late 90s. Buyer: Niarchos family

This highly important work was previously in the collection of Leigh B. Block in Chicago , and then it was quietly purchased by the Niarchos family. The sum -never confirmed- is not absurd given the high quality of the painting.

 

SOONER OR LATER. FUTURE SALES

There are still several Art masterpieces in private hands, waiting to shine at the Art market. You can find them at our article about The most important paintings in private hands

 

Gabriel Fernández
www.theartwolf.com

The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold. An Updated List
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