The highest known prices paid for paintings, include Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers (1888) by Vincent van Gogh, sold in 1987 for more than triple the previous $17 million record price set only two years before, introducing a new era in the history of money paid for paintings. The sale was also significant because it was the first time a “modern” painting became the record holder.
The current record price is approximately $450 million paid for what is allegedly the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi a year ago. See WOW Report writer, Trey Speegle‘s column from last year here.
It is not uncommon for artworks today to go for mind-boggling prices over $100 million.
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was known for his love of Tahiti and for inspiring many modern artists. He painted Nafea Faa Ipoipo? in 1892. 120 years later, this work depicting two women among a colorful landscape was sold in a private sale for about $300 million. While the purchaser of this great Post-Impressionist work was not revealed, many in the art world believe the royal family of Qatar now owns it.
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) painted five versions of The Card Players during his career, with the majority of them in world’s great museum collections, including the Musée D’Orsay. In 2011, at an astonishing price of over $250 million, this version was purchased by the royal family of Qatar, acquired through a private sale. At the time, it was the most expensive painting ever sold.
No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by American Mark Rothko (1903-1970) sold in a private sale for $186 million, setting a record high for the artist. Depicting Rothko’s classic boldly colored rectangular shapes, the painting was purchased by Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2014. The painting has since been part of a legal dispute between dealer Yves Bouvier and Rybolovlev who believes he mislead him about the price of the work. You know how those Russians are about the price of art.
Portrait of Marten Soolmans and Portrait Of Oopjen Coppit, a couple, was painted by Rembrandt (1606-1669) in 1634. Owned by the Rothschild family, these works have rarely been seen in public; until the Rijksmuseum and The Louvre jointly purchased these as a pair for approximately $180 million. Paris and Amsterdam take turns displaying them. I am glad they are still together, it only seems right.
Sold in 2015 at Christie’s, Pablo Picasso’s (1881- 1773) Les Femmes D’Alger (1955 version “O”) brought $179.3 million, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction. Inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s (1798 – 1863) Les Femmes D’Alger, Picasso painted 15 different versions, with “O” being the last. Like so many works, it has not been confirmed who could afford $200 million for this painting, but my sources tell me it was the former prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabar Al Thani. Bin there, done that.
Nu couché (1917) is the most recent addition to the list of the world’s most expensive artworks ever sold. It is one of Amedeo Modigliani‘s (1884-1920) most recognized pieces. The painting sold in November 2015 for $170.4 million, beating the estimate of $1oo million, and shattering the artist’s previous highest selling work, Nu assis sur un divan (La belle Romaine), which went for $68.9 million.
No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock, a signature Pollock drip painting, was sold through a private sale in 2006. David Geffen sold the work for $140 million (today about $164 million). Many believe that the very private David Martinez, a Mexican financier, bought the Pollock painting; however, his representatives have denied that Martinez is the owner. No. 5, 1948 measures 8 feet by 4 feet, which means it is worth over $4 million per square foot. In 1973, Pollock’s 1952 painting Blue Poles sold for $2 million, making it the highest price paid for a contemporary American work at that time. Pollock never saw either of his pieces make art history, he died in a car accident in 1956.
Another work that sold for over $100 million is Gustav Klimt‘s (1862-1918) Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, a beautiful portrait with Klimt’s signature gold. Indeed, it was popularly called the “Woman In Gold” for many years. This painting was stolen by those nasty Nazis during WW II and ended up in Vienna’s Belvedere Museum. Maria Altmann, whose family originally owned the work, fought hard to get the painting back to her family. She won it back in 2006 and sold it for $135 million ($154.8 million today) to Ronald Lauer of the Neue Galerie in NYC.
Picasso’s work is always sought-after and it is no biggy that he is featured more than once in this #ArtDept. Le Rêve (1932) depicts Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. Sexual harasser and Trump supporter Steve Wynn, agreed to sell it to fellow Trumper Steven A. Cohen in 2006 for $139 million; however, before any money changed hands, Wynn accidentally damaged the painting, probably with his tiny penis. In 2013, Le Rêve finally became Cohen’s. He had to pay $155 million for it. His art collection is worth about $1 billion. In 2015, he bought the world’s most expensive sculpture, Alberto Giacometti‘s Man Pointing. He is such a dick; Cohen keeps that art to himself in a private museum which includes works by Willem de Kooning, Jeff Koons, Edvard Munch, and Andy Warhol.
Sold in 1990 for $82.5 million (approximately $152 million in today’s money), Van Gogh’s Portrait Of Dr. Gachet was painted in 1890, the same year that the artist died. This painting sold for twice what Christie’s anticipated, and some thought even $40 million was too high. Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito won the auction; however, Saito has since passed away and the whereabouts of the portrait is unknown.
In 2013, Three Studies Of Lucien Freud by Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) began a bidding war. It was finally bought by art dealer William Acquavella, who was bidding on behalf of an anonymous client. Purchased for $142.4 million, this painting’s selling price shattered several records at once, including being a record high for the artist and breaking the previous record for the most expensive work sold at auction, Munch’s The Scream, which sold for $119 million in 2012.
Before purchasing the Portrait Of Dr. Gachet, Ryoei Saito bought the lovely Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) painting Bal Du Moulin De La Galette at Sotheby’s for $78 million (a bit over $140 million in today’s money). Depicting working-class people enjoying a Sunday afternoon, this painting is one of two. The other located at the Musée D’Orsay. Like Van Gogh’s work purchased by the Japanese business man, no one knows where this is one is located. Saito threatened to have both works cremated with him when he died.
On display at The Louvre, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was assessed at $100 million in 1962. Taking inflation into account, the value would be around $680 million today, but The Louvre isn’t selling.
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) holds the record for the highest price paid for a painting by a woman. Sold in 2014 at Sotheby’s, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art bought her 1932 painting Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 for $44.4 million.
The highest price for an Andy Warhol was $112.3 million for Eight Elvises (1963) in 2008, purchased Sheikh Richie Abdul Rich-Rich in Qatar.