Tuesday, January 12, 2010


There are a lot of lists in Internet talking about "the 10 most expensive paintings ever sold", or something like that. But unfortunately, most of these lists are incorrect, often being obsoletes, often ignoring the private sales and talking only about those pictures sold at auction. Here I tried to create a list as exact and complete as possible, and I'll try to keep it actualized. At the end of the list I've added a few works whose price has not being confirmed despite the rumours about exorbitant sums


"Number 5, 1948", 1948 
$140 million

Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: David Martínez (rumoured, denied by Martinez)Right now, this stunning "drip" by Jackson Pollock is the most expensive painting ever sold, though the stunning price is still not confirmed (but also not denied). The exorbitant sum demonstrates not only the strenght of the Art market, but also the increasing interest for the contemporary works of Art.

"Woman III", 1952-53
$137.5 million
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Steven Cohen
Pollock the first. De Kooning second. The inmediate conclusion is that the american abstract expressionism has displaced the impressionism as the most sought-after Art period. This painting is the only "Woman" by Willem de Kooning still in private hands. One of this women -described by T. Hess as "black goddesses"- has been chosen by theartwolf.com as one of the 50 masterworks of the history of painting.


"Adele Bloch-bauer I", 1907
$135 million
Private sale, 2006. Buyer: Ronald Lauder.
The acquisition of this iconic work by cosmetic magnate Ronald Lauder caused a shock in the Art world, not only for the spectacular sum paid for it, but also for the way it was sold, far away from the noisy auction houses. The painting was part of a group of five canvases recently returned to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The Nazis confiscated his paintings during the World War II, and after the war, the canvases were placed at the National Gallery of Austria in 1948.


"Garçon a la pipe", 1904
$104.1 million
Sotheby's New York , May 2004. Buyer: anonymous
The sale of this young smoker was a milestone in the Art auctions world. First, it's still the most expensive painting ever sold at auction (the case of the Klimt is a private sale). But it also broke the record that Vincent van Gogh held since 1990, and it was the first time that the $100 million barrier was broken. Although the name of the buyer was not revealed, some sources says that it could be Guido Barilla, the Italian pasta magnate.

"Eight Elvises", 1963
$100 million
Private sale, 2008. Buyer: anonymous
This unique work by Warhol, measuring over 12 feet long, was at the collection of Roman collector Annibale Berlingieri for over 40 years. It surpassed the previous world record for a Wahol, the $71.7 million paid at Christie's New York in 2007 for "Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I)"


"Dora Maar au chat", 1941
$95.2 million
Sotheby's New York , May 2006. Buyer: anonymous
Dora Maar (1907-1997) met Picasso in 1930, and their sentimental relation lasts until 1946. A native from Paris, grown in Argentina and fluent in Spanish, Maar was one of Picasso's favourite models. This painting, measuring 130- 97 cm, was recently rediscovered and authenticated by Picasso's daughter, Maya Widmaier Picasso. You can read theArtWolf's article informing about this sale in this link.


"Diana and Actaeon", 1556-1559
$91 million
Private sale, February 2009. Buyer: United Kingdom
This work have all the splendour and glory of the best of Titian's poetries. It was previously at the collection of the Duke of Sutherland, who offered it to the U.K. It has a "sister picture", "Diana and Callisto"


"Adele Bloch-bauer II ", 1912
$87.9 million
Christie's New York , November 2006. Buyer: unknown
Sold only a few months later than Klimt's first version of Adele, this extremely appealing canvas was the star lot in a highly succesful auction in which four works by Klimt -including this- totalled a stunning $192 million

"Tryptich 1976"
$86.3 million
Sotheby's New York , May 2008. Buyer: European private
Francis Bacon is one of the most sought-after names in the Art market, and this work easily surpassed its impressive $70 million estimate


"Portrait of Doctor Gachet", 1890
$82.5 million
Christie's New York , May 1990. Buyer: Ryoei Saito
The story about this famous and brilliant work resumes by itself the "Japanese buyer boom" on the late 80s and early 90s: great painting, sold for an astronomic amount of money to a Japanese buyer (Ryoei Saito), who was later ruined, and the whereabouts of the painting are now unknown. Some sources places it in Europe , waiting for its return to the Art market


  1. Funny that David Geffen was the previous owner of what are now the top TWO most expensive paintings ever sold:

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