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While many consider paintings from artist like Van Gogh and Picasso to be priceless, some have been sold with a hefty price tag. From Dukes to famous musicians and even an anonymous Austrian family, many have spent millions of dollars to own their piece of history.


Below is a list of the most expensive paintings ever sold. Price (in millions of US dollars) paid and year of purchase are included.

The Card Players
(app. $259 Million)
P1 Artist: Paul Cézanne
Date Painted: 1892/93
Art Style: Oil on Canvas
Sold To: Royal Family of Qatar
Price (Date of Sale): $259-$320 Million (April 2011)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $268.1 Million
The exact price of The Card Players (even the currency of sale) is not known, with estimates from $259 million to even $320 million. The Card Players is a series of oil paintings by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne. Painted during Cézanne’s final period in the early 1890s, there are five paintings in the series. Keep in mind though guys, the Royal Family of Qatar didn’t buy the series – they bought just that one painting for ~259 million). The series is considered by critics to be a cornerstone of Cézanne’s art during the early-to-mid 1890s period, as well as a “prelude” to his final years, when he painted some of his most acclaimed work.The models for the paintings were local farmhands, some of whom worked on the Cézanne family estate, the Jas de Bouffan. Each scene is depicted as one of quiet, still concentration; the men look down at their cards rather than at each other, with the cards being perhaps their sole means of communication outside of work. One critic described the scenes as “human still life”, while another speculated that the men’s intense focus on their game mirrors that of the painter’s absorption in his art.

No. 5, 1948 ($161.7 Million)
P2 Artist: Jackson Pollock
Date Painted: 1948
Art Style: Oil on Canvas
Sold To: David Martinez (managing partner of Fintech Advisory) Price (Date of Sale): $140 Million (November 2, 2006)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $161.7 Million
The painting was done on an 8′ × 4′ sheet of fiberboard, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint drizzled on top of it, forming a nest-like appearance. It is speculated that David Geffen (the previous owner – founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks SKG) sold the painting, along with two others, to raise enough funds to bid for the Los Angeles Times. The Stone Roses’ song “Going Down”, B-side of “Made of Stone”, makes a comic reference to the painting: “Passion looks like a painting, Jackson Pollock’s No. 5”. The record’s cover was a painting by guitarist John Squire in a style similar to that of Jackson Pollock.

Woman III ($158.8 Million)
P3 Artist: Willem de Kooning
Date Painted: 1953
Art Style: Oil on Canvas Sold To: Steven A. Cohen
Price (Date of Sale): $140 Million (November 18, 2006)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $ 158 Million
Woman III is one of a series of six paintings by de Kooning done between 1951 and 1953 in which the central theme was a woman. It measures 68 by 48 1⁄2 inches (1.7 by 1.23 m). From late 70s to 1994 this painting was part of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art collection, but after the revolution in 1979, this painting could not be shown because of strict rules set by the government about the visual arts and what they depict. Shame, eh? The buyer, Steven A. Cohen, is an American hedge fund manager who has a net worth of 9.3 billion dollars (woah!), In November 2012, he began to be implicated in a large criminal insider trading scandal. In July 2013, SAC was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with failing to prevent insider trading. He is an avid art collector, and to date, Cohen has bought around $700 million worth of artwork; in 2003, the New York Times reported that in a five-year period, Cohen spent 20% of his income at art auctions.

Le Rêve ($155 Million)
P4 Artist: Pablo Picasso Date Painted: 1932
Art Style: Oil Painting
Sold To: Steven A. Cohen
Price (Date of Sale): $155 Million (March 26, 2013)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $155 Million
Le Rêve (French, “The Dream”) is a 1932 oil painting (130 × 97 cm) by Pablo Picasso, then 50 years old, portraying his 22-year-old mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. It is said to have been painted in one afternoon, on 24 January 1932. The erotic content of the painting has been noted repeatedly, with critics pointing out that Picasso painted an erect penis, presumably symbolizing his own, in the upturned face of his model. While Wynn was showing the painting to his friends, apparently about to reveal the now still officially undisclosed previous owner (see above), he put his elbow through the canvas, puncturing it in the left forearm of the figure and creating a six-inch tear. Ephron offered as an explanation that Wynn uses wild gestures while speaking and has retinitis pigmentosa, which affects his peripheral vision. Later, Wynn said that he took the event as a sign not to sell the painting. After a $90,000 repair, the painting was re-valued at $85 million, however Cohen still bought it this year for $155 Million – weird right?

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I ($154.9 Million)
P5 Artist: Gustav Klimt
Date Painted: 1907
Type: Oil, silver and gold on canvas
Sold To: Ronald Lauder, Neue Galerie
Price (Date of Sale): $135 Million (June 18, 2006) Adjusted Price Today: ~ $154.9 Million
Klimt took three years to complete the painting. It measures 54″ x 54″ [138 x 138 cm] and is made of oil and gold on canvas, showing elaborate and complex ornamentation as seen in the Jugendstil style. This painting has had a pretty crazy history, and without trying to go into too much detail: The picture was painted in Vienna and commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. Adele Bloch-Bauer (Ferdinand’s wife), in her will, asked her husband to donate the Klimt paintings to the Austrian State Gallery upon his death. She died in 1925 from meningitis. When the Nazis took over Austria, her widowed husband had to flee to Switzerland. His property, including the Klimt paintings, was confiscated. In his 1945 testament, Bloch-Bauer designated his nephew and nieces, including Maria Altmann, as the inheritors of his estate. Now, the painting is the centerpiece of Lauder’s collection, Neue Galerie in New York. Lauder’s comment on the acquisition for his Neue Gallerie collection: “This is our Mona Lisa”.

Portrait of Dr. Gachet ($148.6 Million)
P6 Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
Date Painted: 1890
Art Style: Oil on Canvas
Sold To: Ryoei Saito
Price (Date of Sale): $82.5 Mlilion (May 15, 1990)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $148.6 Million
This painting depicts Dr. Paul Gachet, who took care of Van Gogh during the final months of his life.There are two authenticated versions of the portrait, both painted in June 1890 at Auvers. Both show Doctor Gachet sitting at a table and leaning his head on his right arm, but they are easily differentiated in color and style.
Ryoei Saito, the honorary chairman of Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Co bought the painting – he later said he would consider giving the painting to the Japanese government or a museum, no information has been made public about the exact location and ownership of the portrait since his death in 1996. Reports in 2007 have claimed the painting was sold a decade earlier to the Austrian-born investment fund manager Wolfgang Flöttl. Flöttl, in turn, had reportedly been forced by financial reversals to sell the painting to parties as yet unknown.

Bal du moulin de la Galette ($140.7 Million)
P7 Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Date Painted: 1876
Art Style: Oil on Canvas
Sold To: Ryoei Saito
Price (Date of Sale): $78.1 Million (May 17, 1990)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $140.7 Million
Like other works of Renoir’s early maturity, Bal du moulin de la Galette is a typically Impressionist snapshot of real life. It shows a richness of form, a fluidity of brush stroke, and a flickering light. From 1879 to 1894 the painting was in the collection of the French painter Gustave Caillebotte; when he died it became the property of the French Republic as payment for death duties. From 1896 to 1929 the painting hung in the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris. From 1929 it hung in the Musée du Louvre until it was transferred to the Musée d’Orsay in 1986. Whilst perhaps not the most interesting of histories, it shows how valuable these pieces of art can become after time hanging on a wall.

Garçon à la pipe ($128.2 Million)
P8 Artist: Pablo Picasso
Date Painted: 1905
Art Style: Oil on Canvas
Sold To: Barilla Group
Price (Date of Sale): $104.2 Million (May 4, 2004)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $128.2 Million
Garçon à la pipe depicts a Parisian boy holding a pipe in his left hand and wearing a garland or wreath of flowers. Many art critics have stated that the painting’s high sale price has much more to do with the artist’s name than with the merit or historical importance of the painting. The Washington Post’s article on the sale contained the following characterisation of the reaction: “Picasso expert Pepe Karmel, reached in New York the morning after the sale, was waxing wroth about the whole affair. “I’m stunned,” he said, “that a pleasant, minor painting could command a price appropriate to a real masterwork by Picasso. This just shows how much the marketplace is divorced from the true values of art.

The Scream ($121.4 Million)
P9 Artist: Edvard Munch
Date Painted: 1895
Art Style: Oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard
Sold To: Leon Black
Price (Date of Sale): $119.9 Million (May 2, 2012)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $121.4 Million
The original German title given to the work by Munch is Der Schrei der Natur (“The Scream of Nature”). In regard to inspiration, Munch quotes: “One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.” The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the oil, tempera, and pastel version of The Scream in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later. In 2004, both The Scream and Madonna were stolen from the Munch Museum, and recovered two years later. On 12 February 1994, the same day as the opening of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, two men broke into the National Gallery and stole its version of The Scream, leaving a note reading “Thanks for the poor security”.After the gallery refused to pay a ransom demand of US$1 million in March 1994, Norwegian police set up a sting operation with assistance from the British police (SO10) and the Getty Museum and the painting was recovered undamaged on 7 May 1994. Here’s what’s crazy though: They were released on appeal on legal grounds: the British agents involved in the sting operation had entered Norway under false identities.
The 1910 tempera on board version of The Scream was stolen on 22 August 2004, during daylight hours, when masked gunmen entered the Munch Museum in Oslo and stole two paintings by Munch: Scream and Madonna.
Although the paintings remained missing, six men went on trial in early 2006, variously charged with either helping to plan or participating in the robbery. Three of the men were convicted and sentenced to between four and eight years in prison in May 2006, and two of the convicted, Bjørn Hoen and Petter Tharaldsen, were also ordered to pay compensation of 750 million kroner (roughly US$117.6 million or €86.7 million) to the City of Oslo. On 31 August, 2006 – the paintings were recovered in average condition.

Flag ($117.6 Million)
P10 Artist: Jasper Johns
Date Painted: 1954
Art Style: Encaustic Painting (Hot Wax Painting)
Sold To: Steven A. Cohen
Price (Date of Sale): $110 Million (March 2010)
Adjusted Price Today: ~ $117.6 Million
An encaustic painting is a hot wax painting which involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The US flag was in the news repeatedly in 1954. The McCarthy hearings came to a close on 17 June 1954, only three days after Flag Day. The work measures 107.3 centimetres (42.2 in) by 153.8 centimetres (60.6 in). Yet again, it was purchased by Steven A. Cohen in 2010. Not much news about the painting now, however it can be assumed that it is in good hands. It is currently on display at the Moma in New York.

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[…] 3. Jasper Johns – Painter | Estimated Worth: $300 Million American contemporary artist who primarily works as a painter but also dabbles in sculpture and printmaking. He is best known for his painting “Flag” which he painted after having a dream of the American flag. Johns earlier works consist of flags, maps, targets, letters and numbers. See also, The 10 World’s most expensive paintings ever sold! […]


[…] See also, The 10 World’s Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold! […]

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