Outrageous – that’s the adjective I can come up with whenever I hear people buying paintings worth millions of dollars. But, it is just my initial reaction. I know that works of art can last forever if cared properly, much like jewelry. Paintings are good investments actually. They elevate the feel of a room. They are good conversation starters with sophisticated house guests. But, some are just too expensive, making this type of trade crazy.
Check out 10 of the most expensive paintings ever sold in the world based on the current prices, not the original ones:
10. “Woman III” (Willem de Kooning)
Willem de Kooning is a painter of abstract expressionism. “Woman III” is included in de Kooning’s series of paintings from 1951 to 1953. To be specific, this painting was finished in 1953. It spans 68 by 48 ½ inches.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art previously included this painting in its collection, specifically from the 1970s to the 1990s. However, after the 1979 revolution, the government prohibited exhibiting this artwork because of its claims about the bad effects of visual arts.
In 1994, Thomas Ammann Fine Art discreetly traded the painting with businessman David Geffen. Ammann preferred to have the rest of a Persian manuscript called the Tahmasbi Shahnameh which can be traced back to the 16th century. In 2006, Geffen successfully sold the painting to the billionaire Steven A. Cohen for the price of $137.5 million.
9. “No. 5, 1948” (Jackson Pollock)
Jackson Pollock is another painter who made a name for himself through abstract expressionism. “No. 5, 1948” remained as one of his most powerful and expensive paintings despite several changes he made. Once again, Cohen is the one who purchased this painting worth $140 million.
8. “Nu Couché” (Amedeo Modigliani)
The eighth most expensive painting is an erotic one from Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani. “Nu Couché” means “Red Nude” or “Reclining Nude.” It is an oil painting on canvas which was completed in 1917. It was sold for $170 million to another wealthy businessman Liu Yiqian during an art sale at Christie’s New York.
This artwork is included in the infamous series of nude paintings by Modigliani. The Italian artist only had one art exhibition in his whole lifetime. In 1917, his show was being held at the Galerie Berthe Weill when the police suddenly raided the event and stopped it. Christie’s noted during the painting’s sale last November 2015 that Modigliani just wanted to express that nudity is just part of modern art.
7. “Les Femmes d’Alger” (Pablo Picasso)
Also known as “Women of Algiers,” “Les Femmes d’Alger” is a collection of 15 artworks from the iconic Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. Picasso is so popular until this generation that his name is already associated with cubism. “The Women of Algiers in their Apartment” by Eugène Delacroix is the inspiration of Picasso’s masterpiece.
First buyers of the whole series were Sally and Victor Ganz. In 1956, they bought it at the Galerie Louise Leiris located in Paris for the price of $212,500. Interestingly, they sold 10 of the series to the Saidenberg Gallery.
Since the series became individual paintings, the most expensive one is simply known as “Version O.” Christie’s New York auctioned this in 2015. The painting was purchased by the former prime minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani for the price of $179.4 million.
6. “Pendant Portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit” (Rembrandt)
The famous Dutch painter commonly known as Rembrandt painted these two full-length portraits of the married couple Oopjen Coppit and Marten Soolmans. From the Rothschild family, both the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre Museum gained the rights for the paintings in 2015. Each museum paid half the price of €160 million.
5. “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” (Mark Rothko)
It is a wonder why many of the most expensive paintings follow abstract expressionism. Here’s another example from the Russian-American painter Mark Rothko. “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” was completed in 1951. It is similar to other paintings of Rothko – different colors of big coverage that are connected together through shading. Dmitry Rybolovley purchased this painting for €140 million during an exclusive sale.
4. “Number 17A” (Jackson Pollock)
Another masterpiece from Pollock, “Number 17A” was purchased by Kenneth C. Griffin from the David Geffen Foundation in 2015. It was worth $200 million.
3. “The Card Players” (Paul Cézanne)
Paul Cézanne is a French artist promoting the Post-Impressionist movement in his paintings. His most popular work is a series called “The Card Players.” These five artworks are oil paintings created during the 1890s. They differ in size, setting and number of card players. One of the paintings belongs to the most expensive artworks in history because of the Royal Family of Qatar’s purchase in 2011. Its price is estimated to be at least $250 million and maximum of $300 million.
2. “When Will You Marry?” (Paul Gauguin)
Translated from the Tahitian title “Nafea Faa Ipoipo,” “When Will You Marry?” is an 1892 oil painting by the another French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin. In 2015, Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani purchased this for $300 million from the Staechelin family.
In 1891, Gauguin visited Tahiti and got inspiration there for his most notable artworks. He painted local women dressed in traditional clothing or just plain nude. He also captured Tahitian women wearing Western dresses. Historically speaking, it was said that Gauguin painted the natives as people who only love to sing and have sex. It is speculated that Gauguin earned so much money and fame in his time because of that.
1. “Interchange” (Willem de Kooning)
So far, this abstract expressionism painting titled “Interchange” is the most expensive painting ever sold in the world. Once again, de Kooning managed to produce an expensive artwork. Finished in 1955, the painting measures 200.7 by 175.3 centimeters. For the second time, Griffin purchased this from the David Geffen Foundation in 2015 for $300 million.
Like you, I was pretty overwhelmed when I first learned the prices of these paintings. Not to mention the simplicity of the artworks yet the intense fascination it gave to the curators and the buyers. Actually, there are existing artworks even more expensive than these paintings. Those paintings are already priceless, meaning they cannot be sold privately. One of which is the “Mona Lisa.”