Top 10 Pieces of Fine Art Ever Sold on Auction as of 2020
August 15, 2019
Every year or so, the art world explodes into the mainstream headlines due to an astonishingly expensive sale. In 2016, it was Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Cauer II. Earlier this year, it was a painting of a reclining nude woman by Italian artist Amedo Modigliani that had eyebrows raising (and not in the way it did back when it was painted in 1917).
Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) is Modigliani’s masterpiece. Measuring 58 inches across, it was originally exhibited in a show that would come to be known as the starting point for redefining the fine art nude. In art history terms, its influence is huge: but a price tag of $157.2 million will always have tongues wagging. To contextualise this, a Picasso masterpiece at the same auction went for a comparatively thrifty $36.9 million. Modigliani gave Sotheby’s New York its most expensive sale to date. Today, we’re looking at the most expensive paintings sold either via auction, or by private sale…in recent times, and throughout time.
Let us start with a few Special mentions…
We previously wrote about the art collection of David Bowie, which went on show around the world this summer before being sold at Sotheby’s in London. The collection raised millions of pounds for Bowie’s estate, with buyers from around the world tabling bids for individual pieces of the collection. It’s a shame to split up such a beautiful collection from a master curator, but the power of Bowie’s provenance was understandably too much for fans and collectors to resist.
Another interesting sale was which sold for $21.5m (all prices in this blog are shown in US dollar). Auction house Phillips pulled off a marketing masterstroke after the piece was slashed by a visitor to Austria’s Kunsthaus Bregenz, where it was being shown. The unfortunate incident was used as a value adding backstory, leading to the sale of the piece for a cool amount.
Fine art collectors recently flocked to attend a modern art auction at Sotheby’s, Paris. Simply titled, ‘R. & B. L. library’, it featured few paintings but was one of the most talked about fine art events in decades and the final sale figure of €5.8 million was almost €1 million over the catalogue estimate. What was the secret? It was a rare opportunity to glimpse the intertwined lives of the early 20th century’s renowned Dadaists and Surrealists.
Fine Art Scandal Auctioned for €91,800
The entire 500 lot collection included postcards drawn by Picasso, illustrated letters from Max Ernst and Joan Miró, poems by André Breton and Paul Éluard’s celebrated sketches of his wife Gala, who famously left him for Salvador DalÍ. This scandalous liaison also produced the highlight of the recent Paris auction; DalÍ’s illustrated diary at the time. Sold for €91,800 – almost double the catalogue estimate – this small, fat notebook is far from the only example of our fascination with artists far beyond their art.
Bill Gates and the da Vinci Codex
The most expensive manuscript bought at auction is the Codex Hammer. This loose-bound volume contains 72-pages of drawings and scientific studies compiled by Leonardo da Vinci between 1506 and 1510. The artist’s only notebook in private ownership, it was sold in 1994 to Bill Gates for $30.8 million. Not as scandalous as DalÍ’s musings but, questions like ‘why is the sky blue?’ are clearly riveting when asked by Leonardo da Vinci.
Art or Ephemera?
So what is the difference between art and ephemera and does it matter?
“There’s a long history of successful art ephemera and studio auctions. Collectors are fascinated by the influence of artist’s lives on their work. In many cases they’re both hugely valuable, as the DalÍ diary recently proved.” Ian Welsh, New Bond Street Pawnbrokers.
A quick overview of fine art sales in 2015…
2015 was a milestone year in valuation and trading of fine art. Art collectors had every reason to feel good at that moment, as auction data has revealed fine art defying the general slowdown in 2015’s global auction market. Sales of fine Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary works all achieved outstanding prices last year and contributed to the US being one of the few international auction markets to show an increase in sales compared to 2014 figures.
Picasso was 2015’s highest earner overall, with 2800 works achieving total sales of $652.9 million. The artist’s ‘L’femme d’Alger (Version 0)’ was also the year’s most expensive single Modern painting, selling at auction in May for $170.4 million. In January 2015 it emerged that Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter – Marina Picasso – will be selling seven of her grandfather’s paintings for an estimated combined value of £200 million, as well as the Cannes villa where he spent his later years. Rather than go down the auction route of selling, Ms Picasso said she was accepting private bids.
So what was available?
Details of the works on sale were unclear, but some sources said that a portrait of Marina’s mother Olga Khokhlova was included, painted in 1923 and valued at £40m. Another early piece that is not in Picasso’s iconic Cubist style was the 1921 piece Maternité, valued at £35m. The full list of pieces up for sale has not been released, however, and Ms Picasso herself has made no statement – the announcement of the upcoming sale came from a friend of the legendary painter’s granddaughter.
More to come?
This is not the first time Marina Picasso has sold off her grandfather’s work – in 2014 she sold two pieces, at the time indicating that there would be more on the way. The proceeds from those sales went mainly towards the Marina Picasso Foundation, which supports poor children in Vietnam. Her decision to sell the batch of paintings privately is said to stem from the fact that she was unimpressed with the £5 million they received at Sothebys’ Paris.
It is thought that Ms Picasso is in possession of somewhere in the region of 400 paintings and 7,000 sketches by the Spanish artist. Considering that her recent announcement of sales was the second in a short space of time, there was speculation at the time that she could be looking to sell off substantial portions of her collection, potentially creating an influx of new pieces in the art world.
Understandably this has sparked some considerable excitement in the art world at the possibility of new pieces flooding the market, but a question arose as well.
Why was Ms Picasso selling?
The answer seems complicated. Born to Picasso’s son Paulo, his first child in a short-lived marriage, Marina was largely ignored by the painter throughout his life and spent considerable time living in poverty. Following Picasso’s death she inherited a portion of his estate, including the paintings which she was now selling.
The most obvious explanation of her reasons to sell is simple; money. But many commentators feel that it could be more complex. The majority of the money from her previous sale went to aiding children in Vietnam, so some have seen this as an effort to make the artist do something for children after his death, something he didn’t do for her. This has led to some people calling this an act of revenge.
2015’s second highest earner across all categories was Andy Warhol, with 1400 works realising $525.6 million at auction. Claude Monet was in third place overall, with sales of $338.6 million for just 33 works, eight of which were the year’s highest selling Impressionist paintings.
The relatively small number of Monet’s works auctioned in 2015 puts both Picasso and Warhol’s pre-eminence into better perspective. In fact, figures show it was a year when the question of value versus volume in art was raised on a number of occasions. A mere 13 works by Van Gogh achieved sales of $143.5 million, 33 works by Modigliani realised an astonishing $141.3 million and just nine works by Mark Rothko were sold at auction for $219 million.
But, the most encouraging signs of continuing health in the fine art market came in the Contemporary category, thanks to the incredible Lichtenstein sale by Christie’s New York in November. Lichtenstein’s ‘Nurse’, painted in 1964 and last auctioned for $1.4 million in 1995, sold in late 2015 for $95 million. The final bid price exceeded the catalogue estimate by $15 million and broke the artist’s previous auction record of $56.1 million, also achieved by Christie’s New York in 2013.
So, what were the Top 10 most expensive paintings ever sold as of 2015?
In light of a painting by Pablo Picasso setting a new world record at auction, selling for $179.4m (£115.2m) in New York, we decided to create an infographic detailing the 10 most expensive paintings ever sold. The oil painting, Women of Algiers (Version O), is part of a series of 15 paintings created in 1954 and 1955. The successful bid was made via telephone by an anonymous buyer. Christie’s auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen says the sale was ‘a piece of cultural history’.
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The top 20 paintings sold in 2016 – 2020…
At New Bond Street Pawnbrokers, one of the main types of luxury goods we accept is fine art. Because it makes up such a big part of our business, we like to keep an eye on what’s going on in the art market. Many art sales take place in secret, with the amount paid for a piece undisclosed, but art auctions are a very public affair, giving us an invaluable insight into the state of the art market.
2017 in particular was a bumper year for art sales, with no fewer than three pieces going under the hammer for more than $100m. This is an improvement for the market on last year’s relatively slow year, but doesn’t quite hit the heights of the five $100m+ pieces sold in 2015. However, the number one sale in 2017 was very special indeed. More on that later. First, let’s count down the top 10 fine art sales of 2017 by price.
A B, ST JAMES – Gerhard Richter
The first of two appearances in this list for German artist Gerhard Richter, his abstract painting A B, ST JAMES sold for $22.7m at Sotheby’s in New York. While Richter may be more notable for painting that use his eerily accurate photorealism technique, his portfolio of work in abstract is also well loved and sought after. The interesting effect of the painting was created by using a squeegee – a long, flat metal surface with a handle – to lay down base colours, before placing detail on top.
Rigide et courbé – Wassily Kandinsky
Selling for $23.3m at Christie’s in New York, Rigide et courbé (Rigid and Curved) by Wassilly Kandinsky was painted in 1935. Kandinsky created the piece while he was living in Paris, and – seeing as he was born in Russia – it’s fair to assume that the French title was chosen in homage to his adopted homeland. Stylistically, it’s similar to a lot of Kandinsky’s other work at the time; abstracts that are characterised by non-geometric lines, and rustic colour palettes.
Les Grandes Artères – Jean Dubuffet
Les Grandes Artères, selling for $23.76m at Christie’s in New York, was part of the French artist’s Paris Circus collection, considered by many to be among his finest and most accomplished work. Indeed, the lion’s share of this collection are on show in some of the world’s most famous art galleries in Paris, New York and Washington D.C. Therefore, it’s little surprise that this piece fetched such a high price when it went up for auction. The vibrant, colourful canvas is an abstract depiction of Paris, the city where Dubuffet spent much of his adult life.
SELF PORTRAIT (FRIGHT WIG) – Andy Warhol
Warhol is one of those names that’s near enough guaranteed to be a massive asset to any piece that it’s attached to. This self-portrait may not have commanded a figure as high as some – such as Eight Elvises which sold for a reported $100m in 2009 – but it still sold for $24.4m at Sotheby’s in New York. The piece is a polaroid picture, taken in 1986, and this sale surely puts it in contention for the most expensive polaroid of all time
Dϋsenjäger – Gerhard Richter
The second piece by Gerhard Richter in this list, Dϋsenjäger sold for $25.56m at Phillips in New York. Perhaps the most famous of Richter’s well-loved warplane series, Dϋsenjäger depicts a jet fighter, using a blur technique that Richter became famous for. While Richter is known for his photorealistic depictions of people and objects, he uses blur in many pieces to give it a unique artistic quality. For Dϋsenjäger, painted in 1963, Richter has used a liberal application of his oft-used blur effect to give the impression that the plane is in flight.
Radha in the Moonlight – Raja Ravi Varma
Selling for the equivalent of $29.4m in Pundole’s, Mumbai, Varma’s Radha in the Moonlight was the only painting in this list to sell outside New York. Though his name may fall on deaf ears in the west, Raja Ravi Varma is a widely celebrated artist in India, often considered among the greatest the country has ever produced. He was a learned man, studying the art techniques of European greats, while infusing what he had learned with a truly Indian zeal. The painting techniques used in Radha in the Moonlight are noticeably western, yet its subject is unmistakably Indian.
A B, STILL – Gerhard Richter
The third piece by Gerhard Richter to appear in this list, A B, STILL sold for $33m at Sotheby’s New York. It was sold as part of the same sale as the other Richter abstract in this list, AB, ST JAMES. It is done in a similar abstract style as AB, ST JAMES, although the colour palette used to create it is much more vibrant and striking. As with many of Richter’s abstracts, a squeegee was used to apply the base coat paint, resulting in broad colour blocks which were then painted over with detail.
PIKENE PÅ BROEN – Edvard Munch
PIKENE PÅ BROEN (or The Girls on the Bridge) by Edvard Munch sold for $54.4m at Sotheby’s in New York. The piece by the Norwegian painter, whose famous painting ‘Scream’ made him a household name, was painted in 1900 and – as the name suggests – depicts a group of women standing on a bridge. Munch was something of a nomad, living in various cities around Europe throughout a long career. The piece was created while was living in Berlin; it’s likely that the city provided his inspiration. Painted in 1902 in bright colours, and depicting an outdoors scene – unlike much of his earlier work – many regard this piece to be one of Munch’s greatest.
Untitled XXV – Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XXV – an abstract created in the midst of a flurry of creativity in the 1970s – sold for a cool $66m at Christie’s in New York. The piece had broken a record for the most expensive post-war piece of art when it was sold for $40m in 2005, and has improved upon that sale price by $26m. The Dutch-American artist claimed that, from 1975-1978, pictures flowed out of him “like water.” One small part of that stream of art was Untitled XXV, painted in 1977.
Meule – Claude Monet
As far as artists go, few are elevated to true household name status. Warhol, previously mentioned in this piece, is one. Claude Monet is surely another. The value of that name is often proven when the hammer drops at auctions too; this piece in particular sold for a monumental $81.4m at Christie’s in New York. Famed for his paintings of water lilies, the French artist pioneered a style that would help provide the basis for the impressionism movement. Meule is painted in this style, depicting a haystack in a field in the artist’s native France.
Untitled (2005) – Cy Twombly – $46.4m
This piece by American abstractionist Cy Twombly sold for $46.4m at Christie’s in New York, part of the same sale as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (c. 1500). The piece, painted in 2005, is said to be one of the artist’s last truly great works, ahead of his death in 2011.
Leda and the Swan (1962) – Cy Twombly – $52.9m
A second entry for Twombly in this year’s list, Leda and the Swan (1962) was from much earlier in the artist’s career. The piece was part of a private collection for much of the late 20th Century, which will no doubt have been a factor in its high sale price.
La Muse Endormie (1910) – Constantin Brancusi – $57.4m
This sculpture by Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi sold for $57.4m when the hammer fell at Christie’s New York in May this year. The piece, created in 1910 while the artist was living in Paris, was heavily inspired by the Egyptian, Assyrian, Iberian and Asian art and artifacts at some of the French capital’s most revered museums.
Blumengarten (1907) – Gustav Klimt – $59m
Klimt’s Blumengarten became the third most expensive piece of art to sell in Europe when it sold at Sotheby’s in Mayfair earlier this year. Only Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man, and Peter Paul Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents have fetched a higher price on European soil, selling for $87m and $66.5m in 2010 and 2002 respectively.
Sixty Last Suppers (1986) – Andy Warhol – $60.9m
Warhol is a name that commands high prices in the art market, and it’s never a shock to see one of his pieces in the top 10 art sales of the year. The 32ft painting was among the artist’s final works before his death in 1987, and features 60 black and white silkscreen prints of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Sold alongside Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at Christie’s in Manhattan (more on that later), Sixty Last Suppers proves that the market for Warhol remains as strong as ever.
Contraste de Formes (1913) – Fernand Léger – $70.1m
Setting a new record price for a piece by Léger, Contraste de Formes – or ‘shape contrast’ in English – sold at Christie’s in Manhattan last month for $70.1m. The piece’s rarity was surely a factor in the eventual sale price; it had never previously been put up for sale at auction.
Laboureur dans un Champ (1889) – Vincent Van Gogh – $81.3m
Like Warhol, Van Gogh is always a guaranteed winner in the art market. The Dutch painter is a household name well beyond the narrow confines of the art world, and any collector would be proud to have one of his pieces sit among their collection. Laboureur dans un Champ was painted in 1889, less than a year before the artist’s death. It was sold as part of the same sale as Contraste de Formes by Fernand Léger, but outstripped the sale price of that piece by more than $10m when the hammer fell.
Untitled (1982) – Jean-Michel Basquiat – $110.5m
Grafitti artist turned fine artist Jean-Michel Basquiat probably would have balked at the prospect of one of his paintings selling for such a fee, had he been alive to witness it. The Brooklyn native was a key part of the thriving New York art scene in the 1980s, when street art and hip hop were at the forefront of the city’s cultural landscape. Untitled was bought by a private collector at a sale in Sotheby’s New York in May.
Masterpiece (1962) – Roy Lichtenstein – $165m
It’s little surprise that Masterpiece fetched such a commanding sum; as one of the most notable early examples of pop art, it would be the dream of any modern art collector to own this piece. Making use of the classic Ben-Day dots art style, along with a speech bubble, it is a classic example of the style that made Lichtenstein famous. The painting hung on the wall of a private collectors Manhattan apartment for decades, before finally being put on sale earlier this year. That rarity factor will no doubt have contributed to the high sale price.
Salvator Mundi (c. 1500) – Leonardo da Vinci – $450.3m
Where to start? Simply one of the most stunning sales of a luxury item of all time. The Salvator Mundi – not universally agreed upon by scholars to have actually been painted by Leonardo Da Vinci – was expected to command a fee of around $100m. After buyer’s premium was added, that fee was more than quadrupled by a Saudi prince following an intense bidding stage between a number of interested parties. This sale is significant for a number of reasons. Chiefly, it is the highest amount ever paid for a single painting, smashing the previous record – the $300m paid for William de Kooning’s Interchange (1955) – by $150m. This sale will live long in the memory, and it will probably hold the world record for some time.
Finally, the top 10 paintings ever sold are…
As far as quality investments are concerned, quality art has always been an investment worth making, particularly if you have knowledge of the field and have a certain eye for picking out talent. Selling art at auction has always been a particularly popular thing to do both for artists and collectors alike: for starters, serious art collectors are given the opportunity to buy sought-after pieces at competitive prices. Auction sales also give established, consistent artists the opportunity to establish themselves beyond the realms of gallery sales and appeal to a whole new genre of buyers. With certain galleries renowned for being the places to sell art, understanding the market and how to benefit from it has likely never been easier.
It goes without saying that the best art sells for prices beyond your wildest imagination – and quite rightly so. Art is considered a luxury worth investing in and auction house sales are heavily researched by specialists who know everything there is to know about the paintings that they are valuing. As interest in purchasing renowned pieces of art increases, the price paid for them correlates accordingly – meaning that the most expensive known pieces of art sold at auction have ranged between a lower limit of 118 million dollars and 450 million dollars.
10. No. 5, 1948 | Jackson Pollock | (1948) | sold for $140m (€118.8m)
Whilst the vast majority of art that has sold for hundreds of million dollars are antique pieces, there are a large quantity of modern and contemporary pieces being sold at auction that are reaching the same realms. Jackson Pollock is an example of an abstract expressionist artist who exceeded expectations at auction recently. His painting ‘No. 5’ sold in May 2006 for $140 million – at the time, this was a record sale for a painting, not surpassed until 2011. Whilst response to the painting initially was underwhelming, it has since achieved critical acclaim and stands at the tenth most expensive painting to have been sold at auction. The demand for Pollock’s art is high and auction houses are crying out for sellers of Pollock’s work.
9. Nu Couché | Amedeo Modigliani | (1917/18) | sold for $170.4m (€144.6m)
Arguably much more traditional than Jackson Pollock’s artwork, Nu Couché, an 1917 oil on canvas by Amedeo Modigliani, sold for auction in New York for $170 millon in 2018. Nu Couché is one of Modigliani’s most widely reproduced and exhibited paintings and is one of a series of controversial nudes painted by Modigliani whilst under the guidance of Polish dealer Léopold Zborowski. It sold for almost six times the amount it had previously made at auction – highlighting just how much influence auction sales can have on the value of a painting.
8. Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) | Pablo Picasso | (1955) | sold for $179.4m (€152.3m)
A name that doesn’t particularly need introducing, Picasso and his artwork has been in the public eye for generations now and quite rightly so. Les Femmes d’Alger took on Picasso’s distinct style and was a cubist reimagining of Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 painting The Women of Algiers in their Apartment. Part of a series of paintings and drawings, ‘Version O’ sold in 2013 for a record $179.4m at auction to the former Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.
With bright hues, Cubist perfection and the age-old muse, the female nude, this broke records at the time of its sale. It’s a firm favourite and has appeared in many of the artist’s major retrospectives. The painting was part of a 15-work series Picasso created in 1954-55, all marked with the letters A to O.
Date of sale: May 11, 2015
Final price: $179.4 million
Details of sale: Auction [Christie’s, New York]
7. Portraits of Maerten Soolmans/Oopjen Coppit | Rembrandt | (1634) | sold for $180m (€152.8m)
A pair of portraits by Rembrandt in 1634 were jointly bought by the Louvre Museum and Rijksmuseum in 2015 – for an artist record purchase price of $180m. The paintings were produced for the occasion of the pair’s wedding in 1634. Produced and painted on seperate occasions, the portraits have been kept and displayed together since they were created and have always hung side by side in gallery showings and collections. The portraits are particularly impressive because they are full sized and show a full body image – very atypical of Rembrandt’s usual painting style and as a result a particularly valuable pair of portraits to be in possession of.
In preparation for a potential bidding war, the Netherlands and France bought these two rare Rembrandts together. The 17th-century paintings had rarely been seen in public, and now alternate between Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and Paris’ Louvre.
The two portraits represent a young couple. Rembrandt was commissioned to paint them to mark their wedding in 1634.
• Date of sale: Around September 2015
• Final price: Around $180 million
• Details of sale: Unknown – private sale
6. No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) | Mark Rothko | (1951) | sold for $186m (€157.9m)
One of the works implicated in the 2016 Bouvier Affair, No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko sold at auction for $186 in 2014. Currently contained within a private collection, the oil on canvas appears unimpressive, a simple distribution of large colour expanses, delineated by unevan shades of smudged colour. With abstract impressionism on the rise, the painting was sought after and invited a lot of interest but question remains about the legitimacy of its value because of its links to the Bouvier Affair, a scandal in which pieces of artwork were given ‘fake’ values by critics as a way of ensuring that they sold for high prices.
A leader of the Abstract Expressionism movement, Rothko’s paintings are characterised by harmonised blocks of colour that celebrate simplicity. It was sold in 2014 to a Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who was assisted by Singapore-based Swiss art broker Yves Bouvier.
• Date of sale: August 2014
• Final price: $186 million
• Details of sale: Private sale to Dmitry Rybolovlev via Yves Bouvier
5. Number 17A | Jackson Pollock | (1948) | sold for c$200m (€169.8m)
Pollock’s paintings seemingly have become incredibly sought after, with a second painting from his collection considered to be one of the most expensive sold at auction. Differing from No. 5 in way of its colour, No. 17a exhibits a radical example of drip painting. Drip painting pieces are interesting in the sense that they appear randomly distributed but it is clear that as far as Pollock is concerned at the very least, this is definitely not the case. Distribution lines throughout the painting clearly show his precise movements, giving definite justification for the $200m price tag the painting went for when sold in 2016.
Another major player in the Abstract Expressionist movement, Jackson Pollock was an American painter with a notoriously volatile personality. During the late 40s and 50s, he became something of a celebrity for his artwork; although this only served to intensify his existing alcoholism. Like so many of his most recognisable works, Number 17A was painted during Pollock’s ‘drip period’.
This artwork was purchased in conjunction with another piece on this list. Keep reading to find out which one.
• Date of sale: Around September 2015
• Final price: ~$200 million
• Details of sale: Unknown – private sale
4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo | Paul Gauguin | (1892) | sold for $210m (€178.3m)
Post-impressionism is a popular style for collectors and Paul Gauguin’s 1892 painting ‘Nafea Faa Ipoipo’ (When Will You Marry?) was absolutely no exception to this rule when it sold at auction for $210m in 2015. An oil on canvas painting, Nafea Faa Ipoipo was painted with the intention of showing Tahiti as an edenic paradise, contrasting with the primitivist representations previously exhibited by French artists. Gauguin was clearly successful in his aims, depicting a contrast between western and ‘orientale’ style on a background of spectacular landscape. Gauguin was fascinated by the Tahitian language, choosing to name his paintings using their tongue rather than his native French.
Rumours of the sale price for this artwork fluctuate, with some estimates stretching to $300 million. The buyer is suspected to be Qatar Museums, who would have purchased it off Rudolf Staechelin, a retired Sotheby’s executive.
• Date of sale: Around September 2014
• Final price: Around $210 million
• Details of sale: Unknown – private sale
3. The Card Players | Paul Cézanne | (1892/93) | sold for c.$250m (€212m)
Painted during Cézanne’s final period in the early 1890s, The Card Players is a series of oil paintings produced – varying in size, settings and the number of players included within the painting, the series is composed of five paintings and a number of drawings and studies carried out in preperation for the full scale series. One version of The Card Players sold on auction for around $250m to the Royal Family of Qatar, making it the 3rd most expensive painting ever sold at auction. As a post-impressionist, Cezanne and his paintings were particularly sought after so the selling price really goes as no surprise- the purchase was carried out as part of Qatar’s effort to establish itself as part as the international intellectual hub, something that the purchase of quality pieces of art would allow it to do.
Another private sale made to a seller in Qatar, Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players was purchased by its Royal family, who are known to be prolific fine art investors and collectors.
• Date of sale: Around April 2011
• Final price: Around $250 million
• Details of sale: Unknown – private sale
2. Interchange | Willem de Kooning | (1955) | sold for c.$300m (€254m)
One of de Kooning’s first abstract works, Interchange (also known as Interchanged) was sold by the David Geffen foundation at auction to philanthropist Kenneth C. Griffin in 2015 for around $300m, along with Jackson Pollock’s 17a. The painting was particularly profound because of de Kooning’s clear change in style after being inspired and influenced by fellow artist Franz Kline, adding to its value. Part of the abstract impressionist movement, the painting is a study of the female figure as an internally primitive concept and incorportates yellows, oranges and blue colours. The value of this painting comes partially from the fact that nothing like this painting will ever be produced again and its value aligns with this idea. The painting is said to be the best representative of de Kooning’s style, his representation of expressionism at its finest.
Billionaire Ken Griffin, founder of Citadel, had a bumper art day when he purchased this painting alongside Jackson Pollock’s Number 17A. Together, they totalled $300 million; making it one of the biggest ever days for private art deals.
• Date of sale: Around September 2015
• Final price: Around $300 million
• Details of sale: Unknown – private sale
1. Salvator Mundi | Leonardo da Vinci | (1490-1519) | sold for $450.3m (€382m)
Unsurprisingly, the most expensive painting ever sold at auction was created by Leonardo da Vinci. In 2017, for an enormous $450.3m, Salvator Mundi was sold. The picture depicts Jesus in Renaissance dress, making the sign of the cross with one hand and holding a clear, crystal ball with the other. Arguably an attempt at the collaboration of science and faith, the painting is known to represent the celestial spheres of the universe and the heavens. One of fewer than 20 known paintings attributed to da Vinci, its value is exponential and the sale price is clearly representative of that. Strangely enough, the painting’s current location is unknown and its history is intriguing. Found at auction in 2005, the painting was heavily overpainted and looked nothing like the original painting – although art historians hoped that it was the long-missing da Vinci painting that it replicated. The painting was carefully restored by Dianne Dwyer Modestini, using acetone to remove the overpainting. Its accreditation to da Vinci came from Dwyer Modestini’s assertion that the lips were so ‘perfect’ that no other painter could have produced it, although some critics claim that it should only be attributed to the workshop, not to da Vinci himself.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the most expensive painting ever sold. Until 1763, it bounced from Royal to Royal before going missing. It resurfaced in the late 19th Century, and wasn’t seen again until it was mislabelled in a Sotheby’s exhibition in 1958. It was sold for just £45.
47 years later, it sells for $10,000 to New York art dealer Alexander Parish.
In 2013, 8 years after Alexander Parish bought it, it was identified as a Leonardo Da Vinci. The price tag rocketed to $75 million, then to $127.5 million, and finally, in 2017, to $450.3 million.
• Date of sale: November 15th 2017
• Final price: $450.3 million
• Details of sale: Auction [Christie’s, New York]
If art is your forte and you have pieces in your collection that you believe to be of value and that you are willing to part with, then valuation and consideration for auction may well be your best option. Here at New Bond Street Pawnbrokers, our knowledgable experts can provide art collectors like yourself with a quality service and discrete valuations that allow you to stay in control. As a luxury pawnbroker, we understand the value of your items and work alongside specialists who are amongst the most knowledgable in their respective fields, giving you the assurance that all information we provide to you will be both accurate and representative of the true value of your items.
We offer instant credit with minimal paperwork, plus specialist advice throughout. Some of the many artists we loan against include Andy Warhol, Bernard Buffet, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Marc Chagall, Raoul Duffy, Sean Scully, Tom Wesselmann, Tracey Emin, Banksy, and Roy Lichtenstein to name just a few. If you are looking for more information on our kloans in fin art please visit our dedicated webpage.