The Most Expensive Paintings in the World

The last two decades has seen the price of art skyrocket across all periods of art history. These are the most expensive paintings in the world, who bought them and who sold them. Note that not all images are included due to the works still being in copyright.

It is worth noting that this is not the paintings which have the highest value, it is the the most expensive paintings sold – the artwork has to be sold from one person or association to another in order to qualify, and most importantly to have a value attributed to it.

Many of the world’s most valuable paintings are in museums and deaccessioning (museums selling paintings) is rare. The older the painting, the more likely that it will be in a museum. This is due to art collectors bequeathing their collections to governments or museums. In the past artworks have also been used to settle tax bills and end up in government run institutions such as museums. Large conflicts, particularly World War 2 have also seen a number of paintings – the spoils of war, being given to museums. As such most important old master paintings are in museums and rarely are for sale in public markets.

The most expensive in the world as of 2018:

1. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, painted in around 1500
Sold by Dmitry Rybolovlev to Badr bin Abdullah Al Saud at Christie’s in New York City in 2017 for $450 million dollars.

2. Interchange by Willem de Kooning painted in 1955
Sold by the David Geffen Foundation to Kenneth C. Griffin in a private sale in 2015 for $300 million dollars.

3. The Card Players by Paul Cézanne, painted in 1892-93
Sold by George Embiricos to the State of Qatar in a private sale in 2011 for $250 million dollars.

4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin, painted in 1892
Sold by Rudolf Staechelinheirs to the State of Qatar in a private sale in 2014 for $210 million dollars.

5. Number 17A by Jackson Pollock painted in 1948
Sold by the David Geffen Foundation to Kenneth C. Griffin in a private sale in 2015 for $200 million dollars.

6. Wasserschlangen II by Gustav Klimt painted in 1904-07
Sold by Yves Bouvier to Dmitry Rybolovlev in a private sale in 2013 for $183 million dollars.

7. No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko painted in 1951
Sold by Cherise Moueix to Dmitry Rybolovlev in a private sale via art dealer Yves Bouvier in 2014 for $186 million dollars.

8. Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt painted in 1634
Sold by Éric de Rothschild to “Rijksmuseum and Louvre” in a private sale in 2015 for $180 million dollars.

9. Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) by Pablo Picasso painted in 1955
Sold by a private collector to Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani at Christie’s in New York City in 2015 for $179 million dollars.

10. Nu couché by Amedeo Modigliani painted in 1917-18
Sold by Laura Mattioli Rossi to Liu Yiqian at Christie’s in New York City in 2015 for $170 million dollars.

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