In February this year, Paul Gauguin’s ‘When Will You Marry?’ became the most expensive painting ever sold,
when it was purchased by the Royal Family of Qatar for $300m. To mark the
occasion, we wrote a piece describing the story behind this record-breaking
artwork, which you can read
But, how does the sum paid for Gaugin’s masterpiece compare
to the world’s other priciest paintings? After adjusting their value for
inflation, here are the remaining paintings in the top 10, from the most
expensive to the least.
‘The Card Players’ by Paul Cézanne – $263.1m
One in a series of five oil paintings, the ‘Card Players’ was created by Cézanne in
the early 1890s, during the French Post-Impressionist’s final period.
Like Gauguin’s record-breaking painting, ‘The Card Players’ was purchased by the
State of Qatar, this time in 2011. Having opened a series of world-class museums
over the last decade, the oil-rich nation has been busy building a collection
of famous artworks ever since.
‘No. 5, 1948’ by Jackson Pollock – $164.4m
For many critics, Jackson Pollock’s ‘No. 5, 1948’ represents the pinnacle of the Abstract Expressionism
movement, which started just after World War II.
In 2006, the New York Times claimed the painting was sold by
David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records, to David Martinez, managing director
of Fintech Advisory. However, Martinez later issued a press release denying
this, so there remains some confusion about who actually acquired this
‘Woman III’ by Willem de Kooning – $162.2m
Painted by the Dutch American abstract painter, Willem de
Kooning, ‘Woman III’ is the third in
a series of six paintings, created between 1951 and 1953.
As proof that the most expensive art usually changes hands
between a select number of people, ‘Woman
III’ is another painting on this list that was sold by David Geffen in
2006. This time the painting was bought by billionaire hedge fund manager, Steven
A. Cohen – which is one of several names that appears on this list more than
‘Le Rêve’ by Pablo Picasso – $158.5m
As one of the most famous and revered artists to have ever
lived, Pablo Picasso’s name was bound to feature on this list sooner rather
His most expensive painting is ‘La Rêve’ (translated as The
Dream), which depicts the Spanish artist’s French mistress Marie-Therese
Walter. It is widely reported that Steven A. Cohen bought the painting from the
casino owner, Stephen A. Wynn, in 2013.
‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer’ I by Gustav Klimt – $158.4m
The story behind this remarkable portrait of Adele
Bloch-Bauer is so fascinating that it was recently turned into a Hollywood film
called Woman in Gold, starring Helen
After Bloch-Bauer died tragically young, her will instructed
that the painting should be left to the Austrian state upon the death of her
husband. But when Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, Mr. Bloch-Bauer fled
to Switzerland and the painting was confiscated by the Nazis.
After nearly 60 years hanging in the Austrian Gallery, Maria
Altmann (Adele Bloch-Bauer’s niece) won a lengthy battle to claim ownership of
the painting in 2006. Later that year, the painting was sold to Ronald Lauder
for the Neue Galerie in New York.
Portrait of Dr. Gachet’ by Vincent van Gogh – $152m
Painted by Vincent van Gogh just before his death in 1890,
the painting depicts Dr. Paul Gachet, who took care of the famous artist in his
final months. Although there are two versions of this painting, both are easily
distinguishable because of their unique use of style and colour. The first
version of this painting was sold at a New York auction in 1990 to the Japanese
businessman, Ryoei Saito.
of Lucian Freud’ by Francis Bacon – $145m
Painted in 1969, the ‘Three
Studies of Lucian Freud’ is a triptych of Francis Bacon’s friend and fellow
artist, Lucian Freud. According to the New York Times, the ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ was
purchased by the art dealer, William Acquavella, after he won a bidding battle
against seven other prospective buyers.
The sum paid for this triptych beat the previous
record price of $86.3m for one of Bacon’s works, paid in 2008 by Roman
Abramovich, for a 1976 triptych
‘Bal du moulin de la Galette’ by Pierre-Auguste Renoir – $143.9m
In 1876, Renoir painted a large and small version of the ‘Bal
du moulin de la Galette’. The large version of the painting has been on display
at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris since 1986. However, the smaller version was sold
via auction in 1990 to Ryoei Saito.
Saito, who also bought the ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet’, caused outrage in 1991, when he announced
his intention to cremate both paintings alongside himself when he died.
Luckily his company, the Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Co,
ran into financial problems and both paintings were sold to help clear the
debt. Many critics believe that the ‘Bal du moulin de la Galette’ is now owned
by a private Swiss collector.
‘Garçon à la pipe’ by Pablo Picasso – $131.1m
The only artist to feature in this list twice, Pablo
Picasso’s ‘Garçon à la pipe’ was
painted in 1905, when the artist was just 24 years old. When ‘Garçon à la pipe’ was sold at auction
in 2004, it became the first painting to break the $100m mark (before adjusting
prices for inflation).
There is clear evidence that the world’s most expensive
paintings are increasing in value significantly. In fact, six of the world’s 10
most expensive paintings were purchased in the last decade. This mirrors the
wider trend of an increase in spending on art, which suggests more collectors
than ever are viewing artworks as a viable investment.
Are you thinking of investing in an art collection of your
own? Simply click here
to visit our gallery, and then use the search tool on the right to find an
artwork to suit your taste and budget.