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Top 15 Most Expensive Paintings in the World as of 2022-2023
January 10, 2021
Lots of people search for an answer to the question, “What is the most expensive painting in the world ever sold as of 2022-2023?” Google’s answer to that question may stay the same for many years to come. COVID has disrupted the fine art market just as it has many other sectors of the global economy, but in fact, art sales were in decline before the pandemic.
2019 had already seen a 5% decline in sales, notably in China, a country well-known for its expensive artwork- and antique-lovers. As auctions continued to close throughout 2020, 2021, and into 2022, the fine art market just hasn’t been able to bounce back despite many online auctions.
What Does the Future Hold for Fine Art Auction Markets After a Pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world into an online spectacle where consumer-facing industries would no longer function under standard operations. And that includes the fine art market.
Internal art fairs, auction houses, and galleries postponed and canceled in-person events and flipped the traditional business model on its head.
Today, you can find these fine art hubs and artworks inside online galleries.
Art Sells at Online Auction Sites
In 2020, the Global Art Market report found that online art auction sales at $64.1 billion in revenue will only increase over time. As a result, small galleries and auction houses saw opportunities to reach potential buyers.
Buyers no longer have to hear of collectible art pieces through word of mouth. Instead, a collector can search an online auction and filter artwork based on price range, artist, and gallery.
With the ever-increasing influx of new buyers, millennial collectors didn’t cut back on spending in 2020.
They outspent boomers by nearly $1 million in 2021. And Globally, Asian buyers contributed over $1.04 billion in live and online purchases, accounting for 50% of all Sotheby’s bids. So considering the amount of money spent on art, you may wonder, “what is the most expensive painting in the world in 2022?”
As seen on our list, the most expensive painting ever sold is Salvator Mundi (1500) by Leonardo da Vinci, which sold for $450M in 2017. It still stands as the most expensive painting ever sold to this day. In addition, Interchange by Willem De Kooning is the most expensive abstract art to ever be sold, having been sold for C.$300M (€254M) in 2015.
For art collectors diversifying their investment portfolio, online platforms that practice secure buying options instill trust and interest in millions of new buyers.
In addition, the pandemic has fostered a new buying mentality with access to expert buying advice for collecting art online.
How Fine Art Is Responding to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Across the globe, the art world responds to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict by condemning aggression with art.
Some artists are abandoning international exhibition commitments. And curators ally themselves with the military to safeguard museums and hide iconic, cultural, and rare artworks underground from looting and extinction.
Sotheby’s Cancels Traditional June Russian Art Auction
Elite auction houses Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Christie’s cancel June’s traditional successful auctions of Russia’s most delicate art pieces.
As a result, Russian collectors amassed nearly $17 million, while Russia’s industrialists, bankers, and art collectors have come under scrutiny since the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
In addition, Sotheby’s has organized fundraising for the people deeply affected by the war.
1. Ukrainian Artists Stages an Exhibition of War Crimes
Ukrainian artists collaborate with the Kyiv-based Pinchuk Foundation for an exhibition at the former Russia House titled Russia War Crimes House.
The collection features documentary photographs and voiceover recordings of convincing war crimes committed by the Russian military in Ukraine.
2. Maidan Museum in Kyiv
The Maidan Museum, dedicated to the Ukrainian “Maidan” revolution in 2014, collects commodities that help describe the current conflict for future generations.
And rather than collecting delicate art valuables, Maidan Museum searches for everyday things like weapons, artisan goods, and 4,000 other objects concealed from the public.
3. Ukraine Accuses Russia of Looting
The Mariupol Museum of Local History, the Museum of Medallion art, and The Kuindzhi Art have reported over 2000 artworks stolen under criminal investigation.
Since the beginning of the battle, museums surrounding Mariupol have stowed historically and nationally valued paintings from the terror of military attacks.
However, Borys Voznytskyi Lviv Nation Art Gallery reinstalled artwork across 18 branches with the pursuit of opening an online exhibit.
Some context before listing the most expensive paintings
ever sold as of 2022
In 2016, the most expensive painting in the world was Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Cauer II.
In early 2022, 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 contextualize 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, and implicitly one of the most expensive paintings in the world as of 2022 – 2023.
Today, we’re looking at the most expensive paintings and abstract art in the world sold either via auction, or by private sale as of 2022…in recent times, and throughout time.
As far as quality investments are concerned, the most expensive art pieces have 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 is particularly popular both for artists and collectors alike: for starters, serious art collectors are given the opportunity to buy sought-after expensive art 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 expensive art pieces, understanding the market and how to benefit from it has likely never been easier.
It goes without saying that the most expensive paintings and art in the world sell for prices beyond your wildest imagination – and quite rightly so.
As interest in purchasing some of the most expensive pieces of art in the world increases, the price paid for them correlates accordingly – meaning that the most expensive known paintings and pieces of art sold at auction worldwide have ranged between a lower limit of 118 million dollars and 450 million dollars.
The fine art team at New Bond Street Pawnbrokers has put together a list of the top 15 most expensive paintings and art in the world ever sold on auction as of 2022 – 2023, (and some special mentions too!).
So, let’s dive in!
The top 17 most expensive paintings & art ever sold as of 2022-2023 are…
17. Bouilloire et Fruits | Paul Cézanne | (1888-1890) Sold for $59.3M (€52.5M)
Paul Cézanne’s “Bouilloire et Fruits,” which translates to “Kettle and Fruit,” is one of the most famous paintings by Cézanne, and part of that fame comes from the fact that someone stole it from a house in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1978.
Twenty-one years later, authorities recovered the artwork, finding out that a Pittsburgh gun dealer had taken this most expensive art piece.
Having been shown in museums in Paris, Berlin, Johannesburg, and the Netherlands, “Bouilloire et Fruits” finally made its way to Christie’s in May of 2019, where it made almost $60 million. A worthy entry on our list of Top 15 Most Expensive Paintings in the World Ever Sold by 2022 – 2023.
16. Ten Views of Lingbi Rock | Wu Bin | (c. 1610) | Sold for $77M (€68.2M)
“Ten Views of Lingbi Rock” has become some of the most expensive paintings in the world ever sold from China as of 2022-2023. The Ming Dynasty-era painting came from a well-known collection called “The North American Ten-Views of Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection.”
The collection also holds expensive treasures, such as the Yongzheng Imperial Blue-and-White ‘Dragon’ Tianqiuping (sold for $23M) and a gilt lacquer bronze figure of Guandi (sold for $8.7M).
The first time the painting appeared on the auction block in 1989, it made $1.21 million, which was a record at the time for Chinese paintings. In October 2021, however, it sold for $77 million at the Poly Auction in Beijing.
15. Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus | Francis Bacon | (1981) | Sold for $84.5M (€74.8M)
Although far from the world’s most expensive painting ever sold as of 2022-2023, Irish-born artist Francis Bacon’s “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” still sold for a hefty $84.5 million from Sotheby’s in New York in June of 2020.
Bacon based his triptych on “The Oresteia,” a trilogy of ancient Greek plays written by Aeschylus, who lived during the 6th century BC. The first painting shows the murder of King Agamemnon after his wife, Queen Clytemnestra, sacrificed their daughter to ensure a safe journey.
The middle piece represents Agamemnon and Clytemnestra’s son, Orestes, killing his mother. The final panel depicts the Furies, who were three deities of vengeance, pursuing Orestes.
The triptych wasn’t even the most expensive painting ever sold by Bacon. “Triptych, 1976” went for $86.3 million in 2008, while “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” sold for $142.4 million in 2013, making it the most expensive Bacon painting in the world ever sold as of 2022 – 2023.
14. Buffalo II | Robert Rauschenberg | (1964) | Sold for $88.8M (€78.6M)
Becoming one of the most expensive art pieces ever sold as of 2022 – 2023, Robert Rauschenberg’s “Buffalo II” uses personal photographs and magazine cut-outs to create the landscape he felt in the United States in the mid-1960s.
Finished just after John Kennedy’s assassination, JFK’s image is one of the artwork’s largest and most recognizable images. The eight-foot-high silkscreen printing, considered a low form of art at the time, attempts to bring together the tangible and abstract to capture 1960s America.
Coming from a similar vein as some of the most expensive abstract art ever sold, “Buffalo II” sold for a whopping $88.8 million from Christie’s in May 2019, the same month as Monet’s “Meules.”
13. Meules | Claude Monet | (1890) | Sold for $110.7M (€97.9M)
Surprisingly, Claude Monet’s paintings are not usually among the most expensive paintings in the world ever sold. However, one of Monet’s works from his ‘Haystacks’ series was sold in May of 2019 from Sotheby’s for $110.7 million.
Monet’s breathtaking haystack painting utilizes a more extensive palette than the other pieces in the series, containing brush strokes that move from each upper corner to meet seamlessly in the center of the work.
This sale was the first time that “Meules” has gone up for auction since 1986, and this time it brought in 44 times the price it did almost four decades ago. As such, “Meules” has become Monet’s most expensive art piece ever sold, and one of the world’s most expensive paintings as of 2022 – 2023.
12. Femme Assise Près D’une Fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) | Pablo Picasso | (1932) | SOLD FOR $103M (€101M)
The most expensive art piece sold in 2021 was this depiction of Picasso’s muse, painted in 1932. The only fine art painting to reach the $100 million mark at auction in 2021, this piece has changed hands a number of times before arriving at Christies in the late 2010s.
Since its original price at auction in 1997, this piece has seen a 1400% increase in hammer price, indicating a positive trend for Picasso’s market.
11. 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 is 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 an auction recently.
His painting ‘No. 5’ sold in May 2006 for $140 million – at the time, that was a record sale for a painting and the most expensive painting in the world ever sold, not surpassed until 2011.
Whilst response to the painting initially was underwhelming, it has since achieved critical acclaim and stands as the tenth most expensive painting in the world to have been sold at auction as of 2022-2023. The demand for Pollock’s art is high and auction houses are crying out for sellers of Pollock’s work.
10. Nu Couché | Amedeo Modigliani | (1917/18) | sold for $170.4m (€144.6m)
Arguably much more traditional than Jackson Pollock’s artwork, Nu Couché, a 1917 oil on canvas by Amedeo Modigliani, sold for auction in New York for $170 million 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, and making this painting the most expensive piece of art in the world that year.
9. Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) | Pablo Picasso | (1955) | sold for $179.4m (€152.3m)
A name that doesn’t particularly need an introduction, 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 painting broke records at the time of its sale, making it the most expensive painting in the world that year, and one of the most expensive paintings in the world as of 2022-2023.
It’s a firm favorite 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]
8. Portraits of Maerten Soolmans/Oopjen Coppit | Rembrandt | (1634) | sold for $180m (€152.8m)
A pair of portraits by Rembrandt in 1634 was 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 separate 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 the sale: Unknown – private sale
7. 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 color expanses, delineated by uneven shades of smudged color.
With abstract impressionism on the rise, the painting was sought after and invited a lot of interest but the 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 characterized by harmonized blocks of colour that celebrate simplicity.
The art piece was sold in 2014 to a Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who was assisted by Singapore-based Swiss art broker Yves Bouvier, and became the top expensive painting in the world that year, and another worthy entry on our list of the top 15 most expensive paintings in the world as of 2022 – 2023.
• Date of sale: August 2014
• Final price: $186 million
• Details of the sale: Private sale to Dmitry Rybolovlev via Yves Bouvier
6. 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 making it into one of the most expensive paintings in the world ever sold at auction as of 2022 – 2023.
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.
Image credit: en.wikipedia.org
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 recognizable works, Number 17A was painted during Pollock’s ‘drip period’.
One of the most expensive abstract art of its year, the piece was purchased in conjunction with another painting on this list of the most expensive art pieces in the world. Keep reading to find out which one.
• Date of sale: Around September 2015
• Final price: ~$200 million
• Details of sale: Unknown – private sale
5. Wasserschlangen II (Water Serpents II) | Gustav Klimt | (1907) | SOLD FOR C.$198M (€195M)
Among the most expensive art ever sold was this oil painting by Gustav Klimt from 1907. This painting has a fascinating history, as Nazis stole it during World War II.
Then, in 2013, it was part of a controversial sale when its owner at the time, Yves Bouvier, tricked Russian billionaire Dmitry Ryboloviev into buying the painting for 183.3 million dollars. This price was $75M over what Bouvier had paid for it and a significant profit that was seen as deceitful in the art world.
Eventually, after being exposed for his deceits, Ryboloviev, and others he had scammed, brought lawsuits against Bouvier to dispute the sale of 38 works of art, including this painting by Klimt.
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 the western and ‘orientale’ styles on the background of the spectacular landscape. Gauguin was fascinated by the Tahitian language, choosing to name his paintings using their tongue rather than his native French.
Rumors of the sale price for this artwork fluctuate, with some estimates stretching to $300 million which makes this piece the most expensive art piece sold that year worldwide, and certainly one of the most expensive pieces of art as of 2022 – 2023.
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 a number of players included within the painting, the series is composed of five paintings and a number of drawings and studies carried out in preparation for the full-scale series.
One version of this expensive piece of art, 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 of 2022.
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 of the most expensive pieces of abstract art in the world as well.
• 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 and the most expensive abstract artworks in the world at the time of this writing (2022), Interchange (also known as Interchanged) was sold by the David Geffen foundation at an 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 incorporates 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, the founder of Citadel, had a bumper art day when he purchased this painting alongside Jackson Pollock’s Number 17A. Together, they totaled $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 in the world ever sold at auction as of 2022 – 2023 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 this most expensive painting ever sold as of 2022. 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]
We previously wrote about the art collection of David Bowie, which went on show around the world 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 piece 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.
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.” David Sonnethal, New Bond Street Pawnbrokers.
Fine assets are always in big demand as prices at auctions around the world continue to grow every year. You may also want to read our comprehensive articles on the most expensive items ever sold on auction for assets like fine wine collections, expensive jewellery, (including an article on the most expensive Cartier jewelry) luxury handbags, classic cars, diamonds .
As a quick sum up of some of the most expensive art and paintings in the world, you can also watch our short video below:
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