How far would you go for art? Here are the most expensive paintings that ever sold:
Words by Aneesha Rai in The Lifestyle · Jun 26th, 2019
Read about the most expensive paintings ever sold & the interesting stories behind them:
1. Salvator Mundi By Leonardo Da Vinci (Us$ 450.3 Million)
This piece by Leonardo da Vinci painted in the 1500’s was often put under the radar for its authenticity. The art world is still divided whether it’s da Vinci’s real work or the work of one of his skilled students. Regardless, it fetched a hefty $450 million at a Christie’s auction in 2017. The piece was bought by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud through his Minister of Culture. The painting was due to be displayed at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, however, it was later cancelled. It’s rumoured to have been held up on a Saudi prince’s yacht and reserved for display at Saudi’s very own future cultural centre in Al Ula, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Salvator Mundi, meaning "Savior of the World" in translation, holds the distinction of being the most expensive painting in the world. However, it is not without controversy. Numerous scholars raise doubts about the sole authorship of Leonardo da Vinci, pointing out that certain aspects of the composition do not entirely align with da Vinci's recognized style. A thorough analysis conducted by the Louvre in 2018 revealed that the artwork seems to have evolved gradually, with Leonardo potentially adding the hands and arms at a later stage. This discovery has sparked debates and discussions within the art community, adding to the mystique surrounding this renowned masterpiece.
2. Interchange By Willem De Kooning (Us$300 Million)
Painted by Dutch American abstract painter, Willem de Kooning, ‘Interchange’ was one of his first abstract landscape works. Willem de Kooning, a Dutch-American artist, is highly esteemed as the "artist's artist" for his significant contributions to the abstract expressionist style. His works are characterized by gestural brushwork and are often inspired by figures, landscapes, and still-life subjects. In this notable piece, the focal point is a pink center, portraying a woman in a reclining position amidst a bustling background. This artwork beautifully captures the essence of de Kooning's artistic vision, showcasing his mastery of form and expression within the abstract genre.
In September 2015, the painting was sold to Kenneth Griffin, CEO of hedge fund Citadel for US$300 million. It currently is on loan at the Art Institute of Chicago. Griffin is also reported to have bought a Jackson Pollock art piece in addition to this one.
3. The Card Players By Paul Cezanne (Estimated Between Us$250 And $300 Million)
Paul Cezanne painted the Card Players during the point where he was the most acclaimed. The buyers of the piece were the Royal Family of Qatar in 2011. There are 4 other pieces titled the same, but they are placed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation. In contrast to Cézanne's earlier dramatic and vibrant creations, the painting portrays a serene scene of two men engrossed in a game, showcasing a departure from his previous style.
4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo By Paul Gaugain (Us$ 210 Million)
Translating to ‘when will you marry’, this interesting painting was completed by Paul Gaugain after his initial trip to Tahiti in 1891. He completed in the post-impressionist era. It features two women from Tahiti, where Gaugain spent some time. Initially, reports suggested that the painting was sold by Swiss businessman Rudolf Staechelin to a Qatari buyer for a staggering $300 million. However, a lawsuit in 2017 later revealed that the actual sale price was $210 million, shedding light on the true transaction value of this significant Gauguin piece.
This artwork stands as one of the earliest paintings created by Paul Gauguin. The focal point of the painting is a native young woman adorned with a white flower in her hair, a traditional symbol indicating her readiness for marriage, while her mother sits beside her in a protective manner.
5. 'Number 17A' By Jackson Pollock (Us$200 Million)
Jackson Pollock is one of the most famous abstract expressionist painters of all time. His painting ‘Number 17a’ was bought as part of a deal with the David Geffen Foundation and Kenneth Griffin, who also bought Interchange. The total deal cost him US$500 million.
Pollock is a prominent figure in the abstract expressionist movement, gaining renown for his revolutionary "drip" technique. With this innovative approach, he would pour paint onto canvas, often placed on the floor, allowing him to convey emotions through dynamic and spontaneous movements. Among his early works employing this technique, "Number 17A" stands out as an abstract masterpiece, showcasing a mesmerizing array of colors splashed across a fiberboard canvas. This artwork exemplifies the essence of Pollock's artistic vision and the groundbreaking style that propelled him to artistic fame.
6. The Standard Bearer By Rembrandt (Us$ 198 Million)
Considered a highlight of Rembrandt's illustrious career, "The Standard-Bearer" is a striking self-portrait created by the Dutch Golden Age artist in 1636. This masterpiece once graced the collection of England's King George IV before it found its way into the possession of the Rothschild family in 1844. In late 2021, the Dutch government revealed its intention to purchase the painting from the Rothschilds to include it in the country's esteemed national collection. The transaction was successfully completed in 2022, with the Netherlands acquiring the artwork for a sum of €175 million (approximately $198 million). Since then, the captivating painting has been showcased at various prestigious museums across the country, allowing art enthusiasts and visitors to appreciate Rembrandt's brilliance up close.
7. Shot Sage Blue Marilyn By Andy Warhol (Us$ 195 Million)
In 2022, the art world was stunned by the sale of Andy Warhol's iconic artwork titled "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn," which fetched just over $195 million at Christie's auction, with American art dealer Larry Gagosian as the buyer. This painting holds a significant place in Warhol's body of work, as it is part of a five-painting series.
Using his signature silk-screen technique, Warhol created the artwork by cropping a publicity photo from the film "Niagara," featuring Marilyn Monroe. The series earned its distinctive name, "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn," due to a noteworthy incident involving performance artist Dorothy Podber. She famously visited Warhol's studio and fired shots at four of the paintings using a pistol. Although the damaged pieces were subsequently restored, the name stuck, forever linking the series to this memorable event.
Warhol's ability to capture the essence of Marilyn Monroe and his innovative silk-screen method revolutionized the art world. The extraordinary price achieved at the 2022 auction reflects the enduring appeal and cultural significance of Warhol's pop art, making "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" an enduring masterpiece in art history.
8. 'No 6 Violet Green And Red' By Mark Rothko (Us$186 Million)
Completed in 1951, Mark Rothko's No. 6 exemplifies his signature style with two expansive areas of vibrant violet and red, separated by a band of soothing green. The edges of each color softly blend, giving the impression that the assertive hues naturally fade into one another. In 2014, this remarkable artwork set a new record for the painter when it was privately sold for an astounding $186 million.
The painting, a masterpiece by the famous Russian-American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, found its way into the possession of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. The acquisition was made from Yves Bouvier, who later faced numerous international lawsuits for allegedly misrepresenting and overcharging for several artworks, including No. 6. Interestingly, it was revealed that Bouvier initially acquired the painting at approximately half the price before selling it to Rybolovlev, pocketing a considerable difference in the process.
Rothko's No. 6 continues to be revered as a captivating example of his profound artistic vision and influential contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. Its record-breaking sale price reflects the enduring allure and value placed on Rothko's emotionally charged and spiritually evocative works.
9. Portraits Of Maerten Soolmans And Oopjen Coppit By Rembrandt Van Rijn (Us$ 180 Million)
In 1634, a young Rembrandt completed a remarkable pair of full-length wedding portraits featuring Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit. Unlike many other 17th-century portrait pairs, these two paintings have remained together since their creation. In 1878, the portraits came into the possession of the Rothschild family, and later, they were sold through Christie's to two prestigious museums: the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum. To preserve the significance and unity of the pair, the two European museums made an agreement to take turns exhibiting the portraits. This arrangement ensures that Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit will forever be displayed together, guaranteeing that the inseparable bond between the subjects and their artist, Rembrandt, remains intact for generations to come.
10. Les Femmes D'alger (Version O) By Pablo Picasso (Us$179.4 Million)
This unique painting by Pablo Picasso was bought by the Qatari royal family in 2015. This version is one in a 15-piece collection owned by the Ganz family. The picture is representative of Algerian concubines in their harem with a hookah used to smoke hashish or opium. This particular painting is considered the masterpiece in the series. Christie’s calls this painting a phenomenon, with its references to Cubism, a response to the artist Delacroix’s work as well as an echo of Matisse’s work. It’s almost considered a new style of painting.