The 10 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold
Have you ever wandered through the National Gallery or the Tate Britain and wondered how much it would cost to take home one of the art world’s most prestigious masterpieces? We commonly speak of fine art at that level as “priceless” since it seems impossible to summarize their beauty and cultural significance with a simple dollar amount. However, for those who work in the auction and commercial art world, putting a price on a piece of art is an important, if challenging, task. If you’ve ever wondered about the monetary value of famous works of fine art, here’s a peak at the 10 most expensive paintings ever sold.
Interchange by Willem de Kooning – $300 million
This abstract expressionist painting by Dutch artist Willem de Kooning was purchased by hedge fund investor Ken Griffin in 2015 for a record $300 million USD. Although this masterpiece is privately owned, it is currently on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago where it can be viewed by the public.
The Card Players by Paul Cézanne – +$250 million
The exact sale price of Cézanne’s masterpiece is unknown, but estimates place it between $250 and $300 million USD. It was sold in 2011 to the Royal Family of Qatar in a private sale. At the time of purchase, this painting was the most expensive one ever sold.
When Will You Marry? by Paul Gaugin – $210 million
When it was first sold in 2014, reports placed the private sale of Paul Gaugin’s When Will You Marry? at just under $300 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold. However, a legal dispute in 2017 revealed that the actual purchase price was $210 million. It is currently owned by a member of the Qatari Royal Family.
Number 17A by Jackson Pollock – $200 million
At the same time that billionaire Ken Griffin was breaking records with his purchase of Interchange, he also bought this second piece of abstract expressionism for a cool $200 million. With these purchases, Griffin has placed abstract expressionism firmly in the stratosphere of the art market.
No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko – $186 million
No. 6 (Voilet, Green and Red) was purchased for $186 million by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2014. This sale brought itself extra attention and publicity when Rybolovlev later sued seller Yves Bouvier for fraud and claimed that the seller inflated the price of the artwork.
Pendant Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt – $180 million
The only work on this list to predate the Impressionists is a pair of wedding portraits painted by Rembrandt in 1634. These paintings were jointly purchased in 2015 by the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum after each institution managed to contribute half the price in a private sale hosted by the Rothschild family.
Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) by Pablo Picasso – $179.4 million
We couldn’t expect to get too far down this list without Picasso showing up. Les Femmes d’Alger was sold at auction at Christie’s New York in May 2015 and now resides in a private collection. This painting currently holds the record for the most expensive one ever sold at auction.
Nu Couché by Amedeo Modigliani – $170.4 million
Coming in close behind Picasso is Nu Couché by Amedeo Modigliani which was also sold through Christie’s New York auction house. This painting is considered an important contribution in the artist’s 1917 series of nudes and is now housed in the private collection of Chinese businessman Liu Yiqian.
Masterpiece by Roy Lichtenstein – $165 million
While Warhol may be the most famous of the pop artists, it’s Lichtenstein who takes home the title in this category for the most expensive piece of pop art ever sold. Masterpiece, painted in Lichtenstein’s characteristic cartoon style, was sold through private sale in January 2017 for $165 million. According to reports, philanthropist Agnes Gund will use proceeds from the sale to start the Art of Justice Fund which aids criminal justice reform.
No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock – $140 million
In a private sale curated by Sotheby’s, this Pollock was sold in November 2006. Many sources cite the purchaser to be Mexican investor David Martinez. However, Mr. Martinez’s lawyers issued a press release stating that, despite reports to the contrary, Martinez is not the painting’s current owner.
While it is hard to imagine putting a price tag on some of the world’s most impressive masterpieces, it is interesting to see how they stack up against each other. Are these prices and paintings what you expected or are you surprised by which masterpieces have claimed the top spots?