Among all the controversies inside the art market, those relating to the prices of artworks are numerous. Indeed, spectacular prices are sometimes attained for surprisingly small paintings or artworks that can seem ordinary at first glance. But high prices always cause astonishment…
In 2018, David Hockney entered history by auctioning his Portrait of an Artist for $80 million, making him the most expensive living artist. As we enter a new decade next year, Artsper takes a look at the most expensive artworks in the world today.
7. Reclining Nude – Amedeo Modigliani ($ 170 million)
This painting by the Parisian master, initially estimated at $100 million, was sold to a Chinese collector by Christie’s New York at a 2015 auction. The series to which the painting belongs continues to fascinate enthusiasts as another Reclining Nude was sold in 2018 for $150 million.
6. The women of Algiers – Pablo Picasso ($ 179 million)
This painting belongs to a series of fifteen paintings by Picasso he made in homage to the painters he admired. Most of the individual paintings are now exhibited in museums or private collections. What makes this painting, the O version, so special is that its acquisition at Christie’s New York in 2015 made it the most expensive painting in history sold in an auction. It will not be replaced as such before the arrival of our first ranked painting.
5. No. 6 (Violet, green and red) – Mark Rothko ($ 186 million)
Painted in 1951 by the American Mark Rothko, this emblematic painting was purchased by the Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2014. Following this sale, the Bouvier affair broke out, opposing Dmitry Rybolovlev to the art dealer Yves Bouvier, whom the billionaire accused of having overvalued the paintings he had sold him.
4. Number 17A – Jackson Pollock ($202 million)
This painting, created in 1948, is the very embodiment of Pollock’s beloved action painting, created using the artist’s technique of dripping that made him famous. It was acquired by the billionaire Ken Griffin, a keen art collector, at a 2016 private sale.
3. The Card Players– Paul Cézanne ($ 274 million)
This painting is part of a series of five paintings by Cézanne, depicting farm clerks playing cards. It was sold to the royal family of Qatar, by the heirs of the Greek collector Georges Embiricos. It is the only painting of the series held by private individuals, the other four being parts of museums such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and the Courtauld Foundation.
2. When are you getting married? – Paul Gauguin / Interchange – Willem Kooning (ex aequo $300 million)
Despite being totally different, those two paintings both arrive second. The first one, representing two Tahitian women, was reportedly sold in 2015 as part of a private sale in Qatar. However, the exact amount and the identity of the acquirer remain uncertain. The second one, an abstract oil, was purchased during the famous 2016 private sale. Once again, Ken Griffin bought it, along with the Pollock in fourth place in this ranking.
1. Salvator Mundi – Leonardo da Vinci ($ 450 million)
Last but not least, this sober painting of Jesus Christ with a hand up, is the most expensive artwork of all time! Not surprising considering that, despite some controversy, the work is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. And as you can see, it really reminds the Mona Lisa. Auctioned by Christie’s New York in 2017, it was acquired by an anonymous collector who turned out to be the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed ben Salmane. To this day, the work remains unchallenged at the top of the ranking.