Culture

These Masterpieces Are the Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold

By Robin Mei - March 20, 2019

Pablo Picasso's Les Repos, $ 36,920,500

Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Le Repos, painted in 1932, was put on auction at Sotheby’s New York in 2018 and sold to a collector for the price of $36,920,500 with fees included, nearly five times the dollar figure it fetched at auction in 2000.

The work portrays Picasso’s beloved “Golden Muse” and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter sleeping with her head (depicted in a Grecian profile) rested on her forearm as a perfect embodiment of serenity and calmness, physical beauty and sexual attractiveness.

Source: Will Picasso’s Le Repos, a Portrait of His “Golden Muse,” Marie-Thérèse Walter, Be the “Sleeper” Hit of the Upcoming Auction Season?

Andy Warhol's Double Elvis, $ 37,000,000

Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis was auctioned in 2018 at Christie’s New York and sold for $37,000,000 with fees. The father of Pop Art was obsessed with both consumer culture and celebrities. He used many of them as subject matter, utilizing a variety of techniques and artistic expressions to state his view of contemporary art and culture.

One of his favorites was the king of rock and roll himself. This piece is one of several Warhol’s life-sized portraits of Elvis Presley.

Vincent van Gogh's View of the Asylum and Chapel of Saint-Rémy, $ 39,687,500

Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 masterpiece Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint­-Paul de Mausole (Saint­-Rémy), or View of the Asylum and Chapel of Saint-Rémy, was sold at Christie’s New York for the price of $39,687,500.

This famous painting was once part of Elizabeth Taylor’s private collection. It was purchased in 1963 by her father, an art dealer, for the modest sum of $257,327. In 2012, an anonymous collector acquired the painting at the actress’s estate sale for $16 million.

Pan Tianshou's View from the Peak, $ 41,391,324

The artwork of a traditional Chinese artist Pan Tianshou may not be highly recognized in America or Europe, but auction records from the Far East, China, in particular, show that his paintings are profoundly appreciated there.

His 1963 painting, View from the Peak, was sold in Beijing in 2018 for $41,391,324. The record holder when it comes to the work of this artist is a painting of a mountain and a stream which was purchased in 2015 for the sum of $50.6 million.

Jean­-Michel Basquiat's Flexible, $ 45,315,000

Jean­-Michel Basquiat’s works have been some of the most consistent sellers in the art world for quite some time, so when his painting Flexible (painted on a picket fence near his studio) came onto the market, the expectations were understandably high.

Flexible was actioned in 2018 at Phillips New York with an estimated value of $20 million going into the event, but bidders soon pushed it past the $40 million mark. The painting eventually sold for $45,315,000, fees included.

Francis Bacon's Study for Portrait, $ 49,812,500

Just like many other Francis Bacon’s works, Study for Portrait from 1977 was sought after on the art market. It was finally put on auction in 2018 at Christie’s New York and sold for $49,812,500 to an unnamed Christie’s client.

One of the most influential painters of postwar art, Bacon was widely known for using motifs of the disfigured, screaming heads, hanging flanks of meat and confronted lovers. Bacon reportedly painted this as a tribute to his lover, George Dyer.

Jackson Pollock's Composition with Red Strokes $ 55,437,500

Jackson Pollock’s Composition with Red Strokes, painted in 1950, was sold at Christie’s New York for the sum of $55,437,500. Along with Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Number One (Lavender Mist), Number 32 and Number 27, this painting represents one of the most significant works of Pollock’s 1950’s period.

Pollock’s first experiments of pouring and dripping paint on canvas surfaces date back to the early 1940s, but it was not until 1947 that he completely changed his approach to free-form work.

Source: Composition with Red Strokes

Pablo Picasso's Sleeping Nude, $ 57,864,252

Pablo Picasso’s La Dormeuse, also known as the Sleeping Nude was auctioned and sold in 2018 at Phillips London for $57,864,252. Reportedly, that was Phillips’ largest sale ever in its 2220-year-long history.

La Dormeuse was painted in 1932 during one of Picasso’s highly productive and most fertile periods of his fascinating career. It portrays Marie-Thérèse Walter, Pablo’s lover and his muse at the time, whose face appears in several of Picasso’s paintings.

Su Shi's Wood and Rock, $ 59,253,580

Wood and Rock, one of the world’s most valuable Chinese paintings, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for the amount of $59,253,580. According to sources, the sale failed to break the record for the highest price ever paid for a Chinese painting by approximately $4 million.

Wood and Rock is the work of Su Shi, a Chinese master painter famous for his 11th and 12th-century scrolls, and who was often referred to as the “Chinese da Vinci.”

Zao Wou-Ki's Juin-­Octobre 1985, $ 65,197,304

Zao Wou-Ki’s Juin-­Octobre 1985 was sold at Hong Kong’s Sotheby’s for $65,197,304. The sale was quite profitable for Chang Qiu Dun, the Taiwanese businessman who purchased this massive work for $2.3 million in 2005.

Juin-­Octobre 1985 was the largest canvas ever done by this Chinese-French painter, one of the few modern Chinese artists who has received international recognition in the past decades. His works have been exhibited in many important retrospectives and are often collected by art institutions around the globe.

Pablo Picasso's Woman with a Beret and a Plaid Dress $ 69,435,900

Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée painting (also known as Woman with a Beret and a Plaid Dress) that portrays Marie-Thérèse Walter, Pablo Picasso’s lover and frequent model between 1927 and 1935, was sold in 2018 at Sotheby’s for the price of $69,435,900.

During the two days of the impressionist and modern art evening sale in London, the British firm Gurr Johns bought 13 of Picasso’s works, including this one. They spent an impressive $155.2 million on their Picasso purchases.

Willem de Kooning's Woman as Landscape, $ 68,937,504

Willem de Kooning’s Woman as Landscape was sold at Christie’s to a phone bidder for $68,937,504. The price set a new record for this Dutch-American artist at this auction house but failed to get close to the prices achieved by several of his works sold privately.

Woman as Landscape was painted in 1954 or 1955 at the peak of de Kooning’s career as part of a series of work that fundamentally changed the portrayal of the female body.

Source: Woman as Landscape, 1954-55

Constantin Brancusi's Portrait de Nancy Cunard, $ 71,187,500

Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture La jeune fille sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard, also known as Sophisticated Young Lady) from 1932 was purchased by a phone bidder at a Christie’s auction for the total sum of $71,187,500.

Even though the price failed to reach the expectations of the house, it still broke the record for this Romanian-born sculptor, painter and photographer. Brancusi is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and is often referred to as “the patriarch of modern sculpture.”

Mark Rothko's No1 (Royal Red and Blue), $ 75,100,000

No1 (Royal Red and Blue), painted by a Russian-American artist Mark Rothko, was sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York in 2012 for the sum of $75.1 million.

The canvas represents Rothko’s classical abstract expressionism — what looks like a single layer of thick paint applied in one stroke is actually the result of a time-consuming process of applying hundreds of thin and almost transparent coats of oil paint again and again over an extended period.

Source: The 20 Most Expensive Artworks Sold at Auction in 2018

Peter Paul Rubens' Massacre of the Innocents, $ 76,700,000

Rubens’ masterpiece Massacre of the Innocents was auctioned in 2002 at Sotheby’s London. The winning bid given for this dramatic artwork was $76.7 million.

The theme of the legendary infanticide by King Herod was broadly popular among the artists of the Renaissance who were obsessed with the reinterpretation of myths and traditional Old Testament narratives. This Flemish Baroque artist executed two versions of the Biblical tale, 25 years apart. This one was painted between 1611 and 1612.

Source: The Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

Pierre Auguste Renoir's Au Moulin de la Galette, $ 78.100.000

Renoir’s classic Au Moulin de la Galette, also known as Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette or Bal du Moulin de la Galette, was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder at Sotheby’s New York in May 1990 for $78.1 million.

This whimsical work of the Impressionist era depicting a merry scene from a mid-1870s gathering of working-class people and their families was the second-most expensive painting ever sold at the time.

Source: Renoir Work Sells for $78.1 Million : Auction: The painting ‘Au Moulin de la Galette’ is highlight of Sotheby’s offering of Impressionist and modern art. The price is the second highest ever.

Andy Warhol's Turquoise Marilyn, $ 80,000,000

Andy Warhol’s 1964 painting Turquoise Marilyn was sold in 2007 for $80 million. The piece was acquired by American billionaire Steve Cohen in a private New York sale.

Turquoise Marilyn was part of a remarkable series of five colored portraits of iconic actress and sex symbol of the 1950s and early ’60s Marilyn Monroe, and the only one that was not struck during the 1964 artwork shootings at Warhol’s Factory by one of its members, Dorothy Podber.

Source: Most expensive Andy Warhol artworks ever sold

Henri Matisse's Odalisque Lying with Magnolias, $ 80,750,000

Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (Odalisque Lying with Magnolias), painted in 1923 by Henri Matisse, a French post-impressionist and the leader of Fauvism movement, was sold at Christie’s for $80,750,000 to a
phone bidder.

The price set a new sale record for the greatest colorist of the 20th century. Before it was auctioned in 2018, the canvas belonged to the Rockefeller family and hung on a wall in the living room of their Hudson Pines home.

Source: Live like a Rockefeller — Odalisque couchée aux magnolias by Henri Matisse

Vincent van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet, $ 82,500,000

The renowned Portrait of Dr. Gachet, painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1890, reached the sum of $82,500,000 when it was auctioned at Christie’s in 1990. The portrait was purchased by Ryoei Saito, a Japanese businessman and also a buyer of works by Renoir and van Gogh.

The painting depicts Dr. Paul Gachet, a French physician and a great art lover who was visiting the famous Dutch artist during his last weeks in Auvers-sur-Oise in France.

Claude Monet's Water Lilies in Bloom, $ 84,687,500

One of the most celebrated French artists of all time and the founder of French impressionist painting, Claude Monet has attracted notable attention among art bidders and dealers in Asia in recent years.

The latest sale of his work took place in 2018 at Christie’s when Nymphéas en fleur (Water Lilies in Bloom) was sold for $84,687,500. The painting was created between 1914 and 1917 as part of Monet’s famous water lilies series that consists of approximately 250 oil canvases.

Kasimir Malevich's Suprematist Composition, $ 85,812,500

This outstanding 1916 work of Russian avant-garde artist Kasimir Malevich called Suprematist Composition was sold at Christie’s for $85,812,500.

This impressive but relatively small-scale painting — it measures only 60 by 90 centimeters (two feet by three feet), was purchased by Brett Gorvy, a British art dealer and present co-owner of the Lévy Gorvy gallery. The price, which exceeded the projected amount of a $70 million, set a new record for the artist.

Francis Bacon's Triptych, $ 86,300,000

Francis Bacon’s remarkable Triptych from 1976 was auctioned at Sotheby’s New York in 2008 and sold to Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire and owner of the Chelsea FC soccer team, for $86,3 million.

Before it landed in the wealthy hands of its first private owner in the late ’70s, Triptych was a part of all major exhibitions dedicated to Bacon’s work throughout the 1970s, including a prestigious showing at Paris’ Galerie Claude Bernard in 1977.

Source: Bacon triptych could fetch record £35m

David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), $ 90,312,500

David Hockney, a pioneer of the British pop art scene and one of the most renowned British contemporary artists in general, became the world’s most financially successful living painter as well after his Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) from 1972 was sold at a 2018 Christie’s auction for $90,312,500.

The previous record holder in this particular art niche was American artist Jeff Koons with his legendary Balloon Dog, which was sold for $58.4 million.

Source: Hockney masterpiece breaks world record in New York

Edward Hopper's Chop Suey, $ 91,875,000

1929 masterpiece Chop Suey became the most prized artwork from the pre-war American period when it sold at Christie’s for $91,875,000. This iconic work was previously part of the famous Ebsworth American art collection.

The estimated pre-auction price for the painting was $70 million, but there were predictions that this particular piece could push the bidding over $100 million. Chop Suey was sold to a private anonymous buyer represented by Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s.

Pablo Picasso's Dora Maar with Cat, $ 95,216,000

Picasso’s Dora Maar au Chat, or Dora Maar with Cat, was sold in an auction of Impressionist and Modern works held at Sotheby’s New York in 2006 with a closing bid of $95,216,000 to an unnamed Russian client. This was the second-highest price ever paid for a painting at auction at the time.

This painting is considered one of the most rvered depictions of Picasso’s mistress Henriette Theodora Markovitch. She was a French photographer, painter, poet and Picasso’s artistic companion.

Pablo Picasso's Boy with a Pipe, $ 104,200,000

Pablo Picasso’s Garçon à la pipe, or Boy with a Pipe, was put on auction at Sotheby’s New York in 2004 and sold to an anonymous bidder for the incredible sum of $104,200,000. At the time of the purchase, it was the highest price ever paid at auction for a single painting.

This painting belongs in a series of Picasso’s work known as the Rose period. It was painted in 1905, two years before Picasso’s groundbreaking Cubist masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon).

Source: Garçon a la Pipe (Boy with Pipe) by Pablo Picasso

Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), $ 105,400,000

Andy Warhol’s 1963 Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) was sold at Sotheby’s contemporary art auction in 2013 for $105.4 million to an unnamed buyer. It is the highest amount ever spent on a Warhol piece at auction.

Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) is one of four Warhol double-paneled car crash works and the only one that is still privately owned. The other three are housed at museums.

Source: Grisly Warhol Painting Fetches $104.5 Million, Auction High for Artist

Pablo Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, $ 106,500,000

Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur or Nude, Green Leaves and Bust oil on canvas was sold for $106.5 million at an auction at Christie’s in 2010. Reportedly, this was the most expensive artwork by Picasso ever sold at auction.

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is one of many portraits of Picasso’s golden muse Marie-Thérèse Walter. For years, this piece has been housed in the collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody and has not been exhibited since 1961.

Jasper Johns' Flags, $ 110,000,000

American painter Jasper Johns holds the record for being the most expensive living artist of our time, at least when it comes to a private sale. One of his iconic Flags, painted in 1958, was reportedly sold in 2010 to Steven A. Cohen, a hedge fund billionaire, for the estimated price of $110 million.

This first Flag in a series of over 40 variations of Stars and Stripes was created between 1954 and 1955 and is now curated at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

Source: Most expensive living artist at private sale

Pablo Picasso's Young Girl with a Flower Basket, $ 115,000,000

Pablo Picasso’s Rose Period (1904-1906) masterpiece Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, also known as Young Girl with a Flower Basket, was the jewel of the Rockefeller estate for decades.

The painting was originally purchased by David Rockefeller from Gertrude Stein’s collection, but in 2018 it was sold at Christie’s for $115,000,000 to a telephone bidder. It was later reported that the buyer was the Nahmad family, one of the world’s most prominent art collecting dynasties.

Edvard Munch's The Scream, $ 119,900,000

The Scream by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch was sold for $119.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2012. It was the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction until it was bettered by the equally celebrated Three Studies of Lucian Freud oil-on-canvas triptych by British painter Francis Bacon.

This iconic painting was created in 1895 as the most flamboyant of four different versions of Munch’s masterpieces, and the only one that is privately owned.

Source: 5 Masterpieces with Multiple Versions

Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, $ 135,000,000

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2006 for $135,000,000. It’s not only the price that makes this painting extremely interesting, but its history too.

The portrait was commissioned by the Bloch-Bauer family and painted by the Austrian symbolist between 1903 and 1907. It adorned their Vienna home until WWII when it was stolen by the Nazis. After more than 60 years and a very complicated court case, the painting was returned to its legal inheritor Maria Altmann who put it up for auction.

Willem de Kooning's Woman III, $ 137,500,000

Willem de Kooning’s Woman III was purchased in 2006 by American billionaire Steven A. Cohen in a private sale for $137,500,000. Reportedly, this was the second-most expensive painting ever sold at the time.

This work belongs to a broader series of six paintings with the same “women” theme portrayed by the American-Dutch abstract expressionist between 1951 and 1953. All but this one are kept in museums.

Source: Willem de Kooning’s Woman III, sold for $137.5 million

Jackson Pollock's No.5, $ 140,000,000

Jackson Pollock’s No.5, one of the most significant paintings of the 20th century, was created in 1948. This work was privately owned when it was put up for sale at an auction in 2006 at Sotheby’s and sold for a record-breaking price of $140,000,000.

Reportedly, this “dripping and splashing” masterpiece was sold by American business magnate David Geffen, the founder of Geffen Records, to the managing partner of Fintech Advisory, David Martinez.  Martinez has allegedly denied the purchase.

Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud, $ 142,400,000

Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud became the most expensive painting ever sold at auction in 2013 when this fascinating work of contemporary art was sold at Christie’s New York for the price of $142.4 million.

As one of the most iconic paintings by this British figurative artist, this triptych was exhibited in Bacon’s retrospective show at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1971-72, but never put on the art market before the Christie’s auction.

Source: Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud

Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, $ 150,000,000

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II was sold in 2006 at auction at Christie’s for $87.936 million to an unnamed buyer. It later turned out that this anonymous person was actually Oprah Winfrey, who put the Austrian artist’s masterpiece back on the market in 2016.

The new owner of one of two Adele Bloch-Bauer portraits created by Klimt is an unidentified Chinese collector who purchased it for $150 million.

Source: Oprah Sells Famed Gustav Klimt Portrait for $150 Million

Pablo Picasso's The Dream, $ 155,000,000

Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece La Rêve, also known as The Dream or Sleep, was reportedly purchased in 2013 by American investor Steven Cohen in a private transaction for the remarkable price of $155 million.

This famous piece was first sold in 1941 for $7,000. The next time the painting got back to market in 1997 it reached $48.4 million at a Christie’s auction. The last owner of La Rêve before Mr. Cohen was casino magnate Steve Wynn.

Source: Le Rêve by Pablo Picasso

Amedeo Modigliani's Lying Nude (On the Left Side), $ 157,159,000

Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche) or Lying Nude (On the Left Side) was painted in 1917 by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. The work was sold in 20182018 at a Sotheby’s auction for the fantastic sum of $157,159,000.

This was the most expensive piece ever sold in the 275-year-long history of Sotheby’s, which billed it as, “… a nude of a very self-possessed, sexually self-confident woman.” It was also the fourth-highest auctioned work ever.

Source: Modigliani’s Nu Couché is a trite pastiche – and the buyers saw through the hype

Paul Cézanne's The Card Players, $ 250,000,000

The most expensive painting ever sold (until 2017) is Paul Cézanne’s Les Joueurs de cartes, also known as The Card Players. This remarkable piece by the famous French Post-Impressionist was sold in a 2011 private sale for the estimated price of $250 million. The exact figure was never confirmed.

Executed during Cézanne’s most mature period in the 1890s, Les Joueurs de cartes was one of five paintings in this highly valued series dedicated to peasants and local farmhands playing cards in the unique composition of “human still life.”

Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, $ 450,312,500

When the rediscovered Leonardo’s masterpiece, Salvator Mundi, was auctioned at Christie’s New York during their Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in November 2017, a new record was set: The painting sold for $450,312,500.

This outstanding example of Renaissance art went into the private collection of Saudi prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud and had its 21st-century premier exhibition in 2018 at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Source: Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi makes auction history