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Art is priceless. Isn't it?

Art is Priceless. Isn't it?

Do you believe that art is priceless? It is not so difficult to believe, looking through this list of the most expensive paintings, which has been sold recently. When you see prices, you will understand — art is priceless! For most of us…

The Card Players

Paul Cezanne - The Card Players

Paul Cezanne - The Card Players

The Card Players
Artist Paul Cézanne
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1892
Sale year 2011
Price $250,000,000
Adjusted price $250,000,000
Seller George Embiricos
Buyer Royal family of Qatar

About Painting

Portrait of Paul Cezanne

Portrait of Paul Cezanne

The Card Players is a series of oil paintings from the French post-impressionist artist Paul Cézanne. Painted during Cézanne’s final period in the early 1890s, there are five paintings in the series. The versions vary in size and in the number of players depicted. Cézanne also completed numerous drawings and studies in preparation for The Card Players series.

This version of the series was also part of a high-profile theft of eight Cézanne paintings from a traveling show at Aix in August 1961. The most valuable of the stolen works, The Card Players was released as a four-color postage stamp by the French government in recognition of the loss. All paintings were recovered after a paid ransom several months later.

About Sale

In February 2012, Vanity Fair reported that the Royal Family of Qatar had purchased this painting from the private collection of Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos. Exact price and even currency of sale is not known and estimates vary from $259,000,000 to $300,000,000.

The Card Players on Wikipedia
Paul Cézanne on Wikipedia

No.5, 1948

Jackson Pollock - No.5-1948

Jackson Pollock - No.5-1948

No.5, 1948
Artist Jackson Pollock
Type Oil on fiberboard
Year 1948
Sale year 2006
Price $140,000,000
Adjusted price $156,800,000
Seller David Geffen
Buyer Unknown

About Painting

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock

No. 5, 1948 is a painting by Jackson Pollock, an American painter known for his contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. The painting was done on an 8’x4′ sheet of fiberboard, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint drizzled on top of it, forming a nest-like appearance.

About Sale

According to a report in The New York Times on November 2, 2006, the painting was sold by David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks SKG, to David Martinez, managing partner of Fintech Advisory Ltd, in a private sale for a record inflation-adjusted price of $140,000,000. However, the law firm of Shearman & Sterling, LLP, issued a press release on behalf of David Martinez to announce that contrary to recent articles in the press, Martinez does not own the painting or any rights to acquire it.

David Cook, deputy director of painting at Sotheby Auction Australia, stated that the price of Pollock’s paintings will continually rise in value, as very few of Pollock’s paintings are still left. Cook has also stated that another of Pollock’s paintings, Blue Poles, is worth at least 180 million AUD and possibly even more than No.5, 1948.

No.5, 1948 on Wikipedia
Jackson Pollock on Wikipedia

Woman III

Willem de Kooning - Woman III

Willem de Kooning - Woman III

Woman III
Artist Willem de Kooning
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1953
Sale year 2006
Price $137,500,000
Adjusted price $154,000,000
Seller David Geffen
Buyer Steven A. Cohen

About Painting

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning

Woman III is a painting by abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. From late 70s to 1994 this painting was part of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art collection, but after the revolution in 1979, this painting could not be shown because of strict rules set by the government about the visual arts and what they depict.

Finally, in 1994 it was quietly traded by Thomas Ammann Fine Art to David Geffen for the remainder of the 16th century Persian manuscript, Tahmasbi Shahnameh.

About Sale

In November 2006, the painting was sold by Geffen to billionaire Steven A. Cohen for $137,500,000, making it the third most expensive painting ever sold.

Woman III on Wikipedia
Willem de Kooning on Wikipedia

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Gustav Klimt - Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I

Gustav Klimt - Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
Artist Gustav Klimt
Type Oil, silver, and gold on canvas
Year 1907
Sale year 2006
Price $135,000,000
Adjusted price $150,200,000
Seller Maria Altmann
Buyer Ronald Lauder, Neue Galerie

About Painting

Portrait of Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Gustav Klimt

This painting has the most interesting story behind it. Klimt took three years to complete the painting. Adele Bloch-Bauer became the only model who was painted twice by Klimt and he completed a second picture of her, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, in 1912.

Adele Bloch-Bauer, in her will, asked her husband to donate the Klimt paintings to the Austrian State Gallery upon his death. However, when Nazis took over Austria, her husband had to flee to Switzerland. His property, including the Klimt paintings, was confiscated.

In his 1945 testament, Bloch-Bauer designated his nephew and nieces, including Maria Altmann, as the inheritors of all paintings, but all pictures had remained in Austria. The Austrian government took the position that the testament of Adele Bloch-Bauer had determined that these pictures were to stay there. After a long court battle in the United States and in Austria it was established, that Maria Altmann was the rightful owner of this and four other paintings by Klimt.

About Sale

Portrait of Maria Altmann

Portrait of Maria Altmann

After the pictures were sent to America, they were on display in Los Angeles in 2006 before the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was sold to Lauder in June 2006. New York’s Neue Galerie is reported to have paid $135,000,000 for Adele Bloch-Bauer I portrait. Originally, the four other works by Klimt were included in the exhibition as well.

However, in November 2006, all Klimt painting were sold to anonymous buyers. New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman accused Maria Altmann of “cashing in,” and thus transforming a “story about justice and redemption after the Holocaust” into “yet another tale of the crazy, intoxicating art market.”

There were a few documentary movies covering Maria Altman story and fact about massive art theft in Europe by the Nazi Government during World War II.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I on Wikipedia
Gustav Klimt on Wikipedia

Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Vincent van Gogh - Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Vincent van Gogh - Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Portrait of Dr. Gachet
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1890
Sale year 1990
Price $82,500,000
Adjusted price $144,100,000
Seller Siegfried Kramarsky family
Buyer Ryoei Saito

About Painting

Portrait of Vincent van Gogh

Portrait of Vincent van Gogh

Portrait of Dr. Gachet is one of the most revered paintings by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Vincent van Gogh was mentally ill and this painting depicts Dr. Paul Gachet, who took care of him during the final months of his life. Interesting, but Vincent Van Gogh’s impression of Gachet at times was unfavorable, writing to his bro Theo:

“I think that we must not count on Dr. Gachet at all. First of all, he is sicker than I am, I think, or shall we say just as much, so that’s that. Now when one blind man leads another blind man, don’t they both fall into the ditch?”
–Van Gogh letter to his brother

However, a letter dated two days later to their sister Wilhelmina.

“I have found a true friend in Dr. Gachet, something like another brother, so much do we resemble each other physically and also mentally.”
–Van Gogh letter to his sister

It is perhaps with this affection van Gogh decided to paint his doctor’s portrait.

Van Gogh painted Gachet resting his right elbow on a red table, head in hand. Two yellow books as well as the purple medicinal herb foxglove are displayed on the table. The foxglove in the painting is a plant from which digitalis is extracted for the treatment of certain heart complaints, perhaps an attribute of Gachet as a doctor.

About Sale

Kramarsky’s family put the painting up for auction at Christie’s New York on May 15, 1990, where it became famous for Ryoei Saito, paying $82,500,000 for it, making it the world’s most expensive painting at that time.

Portrait of Dr. Gachet on Wikipedia
Vincent van Gogh on Wikipedia

Bal du moulin de la Galette

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Bal du moulin de la Galette

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Bal du moulin de la Galette

Bal du moulin de la Galette
Artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1876
Sale year 1990
Price $136,400,000
Adjusted price $78,100,000
Seller Betsey Whitney
Buyer Ryoei Saito

About Painting

Portrait of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Portrait of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Bal du moulin de la Galette (commonly known as Dance at Le moulin de la Galette) is an 1876 painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It is housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and is a one of Impressionism’s the most celebrated masterpieces. The painting depicts a typical Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette in the district of Montmartre in Paris. In the late 19th century, working class Parisians would dress up and spend time there dancing, drinking, and eating galettes into the evening.

About Sale

Renoir painted two versions of this painting with the same name:
The large version is property of the French Republic and it is located in the Musée d’Orsay.

The smaller version is in a private collection. For many years it was owned by John Hay Whitney. On May 17, 1990, his widow sold the painting for $78,000,000 at Sotheby’s in New York City to Ryoei Saito, the honorary chairman of Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Company, Japan.

At the time of sale, it was one of the top two most expensive artworks ever sold, together with van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which was also purchased by Saito.

Saito caused international outrage when he suggested in 1991 that he intended to cremate both paintings with him when he died. Later it was explained, that this was just an expression of intense affection for those paintings.

Bal du moulin de la Galette on Wikipedia
Pierre-Auguste Renoir on Wikipedia

Garçon à la pipe (Boy with a Pipe)

Pablo Picasso - Garçon à la pipe

Pablo Picasso - Garçon à la pipe

Garçon à la pipe (Boy with a Pipe)
Artist Pablo Picasso
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1905
Sale year 2004
Price $104,168,000
Adjusted price $124,300,000
Seller Greentree foundation (Whitney family)
Buyer Barilla Group?

About Painting

Portrait of Pablo Picasso

Portrait of Pablo Picasso

Garçon à la Pipe (English: Boy with a Pipe) is a painting by Pablo Picasso. It was painted in 1905 when Picasso was 24 years old, during his Rose Period, soon after he settled in the Montmartre section of Paris, France.

About Sale

The painting was first bought by John Hay Whitney in 1950 for $30,000.

On May 5, 2004 the painting was sold for $104,168,000 at Sotheby’s auction in New York City. Sotheby’s did not say who bought the painting. However, sources say that it was Guido Barilla, owner of the Barilla Group who bought the painting. At the time, it broke the record for the amount paid for an auctioned painting (when inflation is ignored). The amount, $104 million, includes the auction price of $93 million plus the auction house’s commission of about $11 million. The painting was given a pre-sale estimate of $70 million by the auction house.

Many art critics have stated that the painting’s high sale price has much more to do with the artist’s name than with the merit or historical importance of the painting.

“This just shows how much the marketplace is divorced from the true values of art.”
–The Washington Post

Garçon à la pipe on Wikipedia
Pablo Picasso on Wikipedia

Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust)

Pablo Picasso - Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur

Pablo Picasso - Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur

Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust)
Artist Pablo Picasso
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1932
Sale year 2010
Price $106,500,000
Adjusted price $110,100,000
Seller Frances Lasker Brody Estate
Buyer Unknown buyer

About Painting

Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (English: Nude, Green Leaves and Bust) is one of a series of portraits that Picasso painted of his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter from 1932. The vibrant blue and lilac canvas is more than five feet tall.

It was bought by the Brodys in 1951 from Picasso’s dealer and was publicly exhibited only once, in 1961, to commemorate Picasso’s 80th birthday.

The painting was in the personal collection of Los Angeles art collectors Sidney and Frances Brody for nearly six decades. It is currently on show at Tate Modern in London, alongside other Picasso paintings from the gallery’s own collection.

About Sale

Frances Brody died in November 2009. On May 4, 2010, the painting was sold at Christies auction in New York City. The collection as a whole was valued at over $150,000,000, while the work was originally expected to earn $80 million at auction.

There were eight bidders at the auction house, while the winning bid was taken via telephone for $95,000,000. Including the buyer’s premium, the price reached $106,500,000. When inflation is ignored, the painting broke the record price for an art work sold at auction.

Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur on Wikipedia
Pablo Picasso on Wikipedia

Portrait of Joseph Roulin

Vincent van Gogh - Portrait of Joseph Roulin

Vincent van Gogh - Portrait of Joseph Roulin

Portrait of Joseph Roulin
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1889
Sale year 1989
Price $58,000,000 plus exchange of works
Adjusted price $107,000,000
Seller Private collection, Zürich
Buyer Museum of Modern Art New York

About Painting

Van Gogh painted the family of postman Joseph Roulin in the winter of 1888, every member more than once. The family included Joseph Roulin, the postman; his wife, Augustine; and their three children. Van Gogh described the family as “really French, even if they look like Russians.” Over the course of just a few weeks, he painted Augustine and the children several times. The reason for multiple works was partly so that the Roulins could have a painting of each family member, so that with these pictures and others, their bedroom became a virtual “museum of modern art.” The family’s consent to modeling for van Gogh also gave him the opportunity to create more portraits, which was both meaningful and inspirational to van Gogh

About Sale

As you can imagine, it is not so easy for public institution like Museum of Modern Art to compete with private collectors and investors. The deal involved exchange of some art works and sale of some paintings on auction to raise enough money for the deal. It took about a year to complete all negotiations and arrangements.

While full details of the deal and names of the original owners are still not available, you can find out here about Portrait of Joseph Roulin sale

Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat)

Pablo Picasso - Dora Maar au Chat

Pablo Picasso - Dora Maar au Chat

Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat)
Artist Pablo Picasso
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1941
Sale year 2006
Price $95,200,000
Adjusted price $106,100,000
Seller Gidwitz family
Buyer Boris Ivanishvili

About Painting

Dora Maar au Chat (English: Dora Maar with Cat) is a 1941 painting by Pablo Picasso. It depicts Dora Maar, the painter’s lover, seated on a chair with a small cat perched on her shoulders.

About Sale

This painting came up for sale in an auction of Impressionist/Modern works held at Sotheby Auction on May 3, 2006 in New York and making it the second-highest price ever paid for a painting at auction. An anonymous Russian bidder present at the New York auction won the work with a final bid of $95,216,000, well exceeding the pre-auction $50,000,000 estimates.

The identity of the bidder was a topic of much speculation. As of mid-2007, the ownership of the Dora Maar au Chat is still unknown to the general public, although rumors have focused on the Georgian mining magnate Bidzina (Boris) Ivanishvili, who sold his Moscow bank a week before the auction for $550,000,000.

Dora Maar au Chat on Wikipedia

Irises

Vincent van Gogh - Irises

Vincent van Gogh - Irises

Irises
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Type Oil on canvas
Year 1889
Sale year 1987
Price $53,900,000
Adjusted price $105,400,000
Seller son of Joan Whitney Payson
Buyer Alan Bond

About Painting

Irises was painted while Vincent van Gogh was living at the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, in the last year before his death in 1890.

It was painted before his first attack at the asylum. There is a lack of the high tension which is seen in his later works. He called the painting “the lightning conductor for my illness”, because he felt that he could keep himself from going insane by continuing to paint.

About Sale

Its first owner was the French art critic and anarchist Octave Mirbeau, who was also one of Van Gogh’s first supporters: he paid 300 francs for it.

In 1987, it became the most expensive painting ever sold, setting a record which stood for two and a half years. Then it was sold for $53,900,000 to Alan Bond, but he did not have enough money to pay for it. Irises was later re-sold in 1990 to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Irises is currently in 10th place on the inflation-adjusted list of most expensive paintings ever sold, and in 25th place if the effects of inflation are ignored.

Irises on Wikipedia

Eight Elvises

Andy Warhol - Eight Elvises

Andy Warhol - Eight Elvises

Eight Elvises
Artist Andy Warhol
Type Silkscreen on canvas
Year 1963
Sale year 2008
Price $100,000,000
Adjusted price $104,200,000
Seller Annibale Berlingieri
Buyer Unknown

About Painting

Portrait of Andy Warhol

Portrait of Andy Warhol

Eight Elvises is a 1963 silkscreen painting by American pop artist Andy Warhol of Elvis Presley. Unlike most of Warhol’s other pieces, which are screen prints made by his assembly line of assistants in his infamous NYC Factory, this Warhol Elvis piece is unique. Warhol only made one of the work he called Eight Elvises.

About Sale

On November 26, 2009, The Economist reported that the painting was sold by Italian collector Annibale Berlingieri to a private collector for $100,000,000.

Eight Elvises on Wikipedia
Andy Warhol on Wikipedia

Wrap-up

The world’s most famous paintings, especially old master works done before 1800, are generally owned or held at museums. The museums very rarely sell them, and as such, they are quite literally priceless. These paintings represent new era in art sales — relatively new art works and top dollars paid.

It is also very sad that most of the paintings were sold to private collectors. Quite often nobody knows who they are and where the paintings are. Thanks to digital era, at least we can enjoy pictures of some of those paintings. Despite I fail to understand artistic values of Dora Maar au Chat or Woman III paintings, I understand it may be a great benefit for new artist to see these painting and learn from the masters.

Perhaps the condition of the sale should be that paintings must be available to the public… The world is not perfect, isn’t it?

Also, what makes people to pay such money for the art? Is it genuine love of art or…

Complete list of the most expensive paintings on Wikipedia

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