Some of the most expensive paintings ever sold

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Putting a price tag on a masterpiece is a challenging task. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci with an estimated insurance value of $660 million, is probably the most valuable painting in the world. But is it the most expensive one? Well, that’s a tricky question, as it is not for sale.

Today, the majority of famous and valuable paintings reside in museums such as the Louvre, MOMA, and the Getty. There are, however, a few select works of art that have stayed in private collections for most of their provenance. Many of them fetch some incredible, record-shattering sums of money when auctioned.

Here, we’ve rounded up 21 of the world’s most expensive paintings ever sold at auction or in a private sale.

Monet
Wikipedia

21. Claude Monet, “Meules,” 1890

Original price:  $110.7 million

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Adjusted price after inflation: $117.3 million

Date sold:  May 14, 2019

Auction house: Sotheby’s, New York

One of the most recognizable paintings from Claudet Monet’s oeuvre is “Meules,” which is part of the “Haystacks series.” The piece achieved nearly twice its pre-sale estimate at Sotheby’s 2019 auction of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York, going for $110.7 ($117.3 million adjusted for inflation).

Basquiat
Wikipedia

20. Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Untitled,” 1982

Original price:  $110.5 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $122.2 million

Date sold:  May 18, 2017

Auction house: Sotheby’s, New York

The 1982 piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat garnered the highest auction price for a work of art by an American artist at the time of its sale. A Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa, was the winning bidder, breaking Basquiat’s previous record from 2016, which he had also set. Until the 2017 auction, the work hadn’t been exhibited for over 30 years.

Flag
Wikipedia

19. Jasper Johns, “Flag,” 1958

Original price: $110.0 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $136.7 million

Date sold:  March 2010

Auction house: Private Sale

Purchased by hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen for an estimated $110 million ($136.7 adjusted for inflation), Jasper Johns’s 48-star Flag from 1958 is the most expensive painting ever by a living artist.

The scream
Wikipedia

18. Edvard Munch, “The Scream,” 1895

Original price:  $119.9 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $141.5 million

Date sold: May 2, 2012

Auction house: Sotheby’s, London

Painted in 1893 by Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch “The Scream” and its agonized expression is one of the most famous images of art. The masterpiece was sold for a record price of $119.9 million ($141.5 adjusted for inflation) at Sotheby’s in London when American businessman Leon Black made the final offer via phone after 12 minutes of bidding.

Garçon à la pipe
Wikipedia

17. Pablo Picasso, “Garçon à la pipe,” 1905

Original price: $104.1 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $149.4 million

Date sold: May 5, 2004

Auction house: Sotheby’s, New York

In 2004, a Sotheby’s auction brought 104.1 million dollars for “Garçon à la pipe,” painted by 25-year-old Picasso in 1905, making it one of the most expensive paintings by the Spanish master. The painting of a young Parisian boy named “P’tit Louis,” who died at a young age, is currently Picasso’s sixth most popular work.

Renoir
Wikipedia

16. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “Bal du moulin de la Galette,” 1876

Original price: $78.1 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $162 million

Date sold: May 17, 1990

Auction house: Sotheby’s, New York

Renoir’s impressionist masterpiece exceeded the estimated $40–$50 million in 1990 after fetching $78.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York City. The exuberant rendering of a Parisian open-air dance hall is one of Renoir’s most revered pieces.

Francis Bacon
Wikipedia

15. Francis Bacon, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” 1969

Original price: $142,2 million

Adjusted price after inflation:$165.7 million

Date sold:  November 12, 2013

Auction house: Christie’s, New York

Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” achieved a $127 million purchase price at Christie’s 2013 post-war and contemporary auction. In about six minutes of “fierce” bidding, several bidders brought Bacon’s triptych’s value from approximately $80 million to a final price of $127 million. In addition to outperforming Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” which sold for nearly $120 million at Sotheby’s the previous year, it also contributed to Christie’s landmark year—grossing $691.6 million.

Gustav Klimt
Wikipedia

14. Gustav Klimt, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II,” 1912

Original price: $150 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $169.4 million

Date sold:  2016

Auction house: Private sale via Larry Gagosian

The 1912 Gustav Klimt painting was purchased by Oprah Winfrey for $87.9 million at Christie’s auction house in 2006. Klimt’s second portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, named “Adele Bloch-Bauer II,” was then given to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as a special long-term loan in the fall of 2014. The art nouveau masterpiece was sold for $150 million by Oprah Winfrey to an unidentified Chinese buyer during the summer of 2016.

Portrait of Dr. Gachet
Wikipedia

13. Vincent van Gogh, “Portrait of Dr. Gachet,” 1890

Original price: $82.5 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $171.1 million

Date sold:  May 15, 1990

Auction house: Christie’s, New York

Vincent van Gogh painted “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” in the very last months of his life. The portrait of a homeopathic doctor who cared for van Gogh in his final hours is considered one of the artist’s most iconic works. At the time the Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito purchased the painting at auction in 1990; it was the world’s most expensive work of art at $82.5 million ($171.1 million today).

Masterpiece
Wikipedia

11. Roy Lichtenstein, “Masterpiece,” 1962

Original price: $165.0 million

Adjusted price after inflation:$182.4 million

Date sold: January 2017

Auction house: Private Sale

The 1962 pop art painting by Roy Lichtenstein, which sold for $165 million in a private sale in 2017, is now the most expensive work by the artist.

Gustav_Klimt
Wikipedia

12. Gustav Klimt, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” 1907

Original price: $135 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $181.5 million

Date sold:  June 18, 2006

Auction house: Private Sale via Christie’s

One of Klimt’s most recognizable works, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” was commissioned by the model’s husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. After being stolen by the Nazis, the painting was exhibited at the Austrian Galerie Belvedere in 1941. In the mid-2000s, the legitimate successor of the painting, Maria Altman, was able to regain it after successfully suing the Austrian government. The painting was sold to Ronald Lauder the same year for $135 million—a record price at that time for a painting.

No. 5, Pollock
Wikipedia

10. Jackson Pollock, “No. 5,” 1948

Original price: $140 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $188.2 million

Date sold:  November 2, 2006

Auction house: Private sale via Sotheby’s

A representative work of the abstract expressionist movement, No. 5 was created in 1948 by Jackson Pollock. The painting was sold for a record-breaking $140 million in 2006.

This painting sold for $140 million on May 22, 2006, setting a record for the highest price ever paid for a painting, which wasn’t surpassed until April 2011.

Warhol
Wikipedia

9. Andy Warhol. “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” 1964

Original price: $195 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $195 million

Date sold: May 9, 2022

Auction house: Christie’s, New York

Andy Warhol’s iconic 1964 “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” set a new record as the most expensive 20th-century artwork ever to sell at auction after it sold for $195 million from the Foundation of Thomas and Doris Ammann on May 9, 2022, at Christie’s in New York City.

Rembrandt
Wikipedia

8. Rembrandt, “The Standard Bearer,” 1633

Original price: $198 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $198 million

Date sold:  February 2022

Auction house: Private Sale

Rembrandt’s 1636 masterpiece “The Standard Bearer and its inextricable link to the Netherlands’s history was acquired by the Dutch state in January 2022 for $198 millionPart of the sum was paid by the Dutch government, while the rest was contributed by the Rembrandt Association and Rijksmuseum.

Rembrandt,
Wikipedia

7. Rembrandt, “Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit,” 1634

Original price: $180 million

Adjusted price after inflation:  $206 million

Date sold: February 1, 2016

Auction house: Private sale

Rembrandt’s portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, both painted in 1634, were sold for $180 million in 2015, setting a new record for the Price of Rembrandt’s works. Their creation as a pair made it only natural for them to be displayed together at all times. Therefore, when the Rothschild family decided to sell these seldom-seen masterpieces, two museums, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre Museum in Paris, jointly purchased the two pieces.

Rothko
Wikipedia

6. Mark Rothko, “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red),” 1951

Original price: $180 million

Adjusted price after inflation:  $206 million

Date sold: February 1, 2016

Auction house: Private sale

Rembrandt’s portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, both painted in 1634, were sold for $180 million in 2015, setting a new record for the Price of Rembrandt’s works. Their creation as a pair made it only natural for them to be displayed together at all times. Therefore, when the Rothschild family decided to sell these seldom-seen masterpieces, two museums, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre Museum in Paris, jointly purchased the two pieces.

Pollock
Wikipedia

5. Jackson Pollock, “Number 17A,” 1948

Original price: $186 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $213 million

Date sold:  August 2014

Auction house: Private sale via Yves Bouvier

The Latvian-American painter Mark Rothko created the “No.6 (Violet, Green, and Red)” in 1951. The abstract masterpiece was privately sold for $186 million in 2104, setting a new record for the painter. Moreover, it made history as one of the top seven most expensive art pieces ever sold.

Paul Gauguin
Wikipedia

4. Paul Gauguin, “Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)” 1892

Original price: $200 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $240 million

Date sold: September 2014

Auction house: Private sale

Paul Gauguin painted the iconic post-impressionist work in 1892, a year after his first trip to Tahiti, which resulted in a life-long love affair with the island and its women. The painting fetched $200 million in a private sale in 2015, at the time tying Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange” for the world’s most expensive painting title.

Card-players
Wikipedia

3. Paul Cézanne, “The Card Players” c. 1892

Original price: $200 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $240 million

Date sold: September 2014

Auction house: Private sale

Paul Gauguin painted the iconic post-impressionist work in 1892, a year after his first trip to Tahiti, which resulted in a life-long love affair with the island and its women. The painting fetched $200 million in a private sale in 2015, at the time tying Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange” for the world’s most expensive painting title.

Interchange
Wikipedia

2. Willem de Kooning, “Interchange” 1955

Original price: $300 million

Adjusted price after inflation:  $343 million

Date sold:  September 2015

Auction house: Private sale

Created by the Dutch-American painter Willem de Kooning in 1955, this famous Abstract Expressionism work is one of the most important landmark pieces of America’s first modern art movement.The oil painting, which depicts a reclining woman was purchased by Kenneth C. Griffin in September 2015 for $300 million. At that time, it was tied as one of the most expensive paintings in the world.

Leondardo da Vinci
Wikipedia

1. Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi” c. 1500

Original price: $450.3 million

Adjusted price after inflation: $497.8 million

Date sold: November 15, 2017

Auction house: Christie’s, New York

While the “Mona Lisa” is undoubtedly the most valuable piece of art by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, it is also believed that the Italian artist created the most expensive painting ever sold.

“Salvator Mundi,” which sold for a staggering $450.3 million on November 15, 2017, at Christie’s, is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, even though art historians have some doubts. The painting depicting Christ in a cerulean blue robe was believed to be lost or destroyed until it appeared in 2005, looking like a bad copy due to overpainting.

However, art professionals discovered evidence that suggested it was an original, and it was authenticated as such. While there are still some doubts about the painting’s authenticity, most art historians believe that Leonardo da Vinci contributed at least in part to its creation. The painting currently holds the record for the most expensive painting ever sold.

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