by A Kladov

Visual art is a unique phenomenon of human civilization, which unites the material world and the limitless depth of the mind and imagination. That is the reason why art lovers do their best to get the desired work of art no matter how much it costs. Our selection introduces 20 most expensive paintings to you with the hope for making you enchanted with art the same as we are.

20. Jean-Michel Basquiat «Untitled» (1982) — $ 110,500,000

Untitled, Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982

This stunning artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat has broken 3 records. It was sold at Sotheby's for an "incredible" $110,5 million to the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, and thus became the auction record of the artist himself and the most expensive work created by an American artist so far. 

Moreover, the auction brought the painting a title of the most expensive work created after 1980.

The painting was preliminarily estimated at $60 million, though the famous collectors Jerry and Emily Spiegel bought it in 1984 for only $19,000.

19. Pablo Picasso “Young Girl with a Flower Basket” (1905) - $115,000,000

Young Girl with a Flower Basket, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, Young Girl with a Flower Basket, 1905

An amazing portrait of a girl with a basket of flowers in her hands was painted by Picasso during his “Rose Period”. The auction house Christie's offered the lot with an estimate of $100 million in 2018. 

Though there was concern that the image of a naked teenage girl, allegedly engaged in prostitution, could scare off buyers, the glorious name of Pablo Picasso attracted many art lovers. The painting was sold to the Nahmad collectors for $115 mln, who lent the work to the Orsay Museum for the autumn exhibition in Paris.

It is remarkable that in 1905, Picasso sold this painting to a gallery for just 75 francs.

18. Edvard Munch “The Scream” (1895) - $119,900,000

The Scream, Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895

With the help of his series “The Scream”, the author tried to convey the emotional state of humanity during that difficult and controversial period of history. One of four variations of the artwork was painted on cardboard in 1895. This variant was estimated so highly because the author wrote the reason for creating the entire Scream series only on it. 

Until 2012, the canvas was kept by the Norwegian man Petter Olsen who inherited it from his father, who was friends with Edvard. In May 2012 it was sold at the auction either to the royal family from Qatar or to the American businessman Leon David Black. The current owner is not known for sure. 

17. Gustav Klimt “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (also called “The Lady in Gold” and “The Woman in Gold”) (1903 - 1907) - $ 135,000,000

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt, Klimt Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1903 - 1907

The reason for its creation was the husband's revenge for the love affair between his wife and the artist Gustav Klimt. After WWII, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” ended up in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. However, the will of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer was discovered, in which he bequeathed all his property to his nephews - the children of his brother. At that time, only Maria Altman, who fled during the war to the United States and received American citizenship, remained alive. 

The legal proceedings lasted 7 years, after which Maria’s right to own five paintings by Gustav Klimt, including “The Golden Adele,” was recognized. 

In 2006, Maria Altman sold it to Ronald Lauder, an international philanthropist and art collector.

16. Willem de Kooning “Woman III” (1953) - $ 137,500,000

Woman III, Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning, Woman III, 1953

De Kooning's series "Woman" represents images of women that were strikingly different from any other depictions of the so-called "weaker sex". They were literally terrifying and if sexual then in a very aggressive way. The artist completely denied any idealization of a woman and created completely new heroines, in some ways much more realistic, despite their abstractness.

In the 70s, the painting was acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran. However, when the country began to impose strict rules regarding visual arts after the revolution in 1979, the painting was sold to the business tycoon David Geffen. In 2006, he sold the painting to the millionaire Steven Cohen for that huge sum of money.

15. Jackson Pollock “No. 5” (1948) - $ 140,000,000

No. 5, Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock, No. 5, 1948

Pollock denied the accidental in painting. Every movement was deeply thought out; he took into account the absorption of paint by the canvas and the force of gravity. Pollock achieved exactly the image he needed without touching the canvas with a brush. This manner of creating artworks received the name “action painting.”

In 1949, Alonso Assorio purchased this work for only $1,500. 

After being an exhibit in a private collection of David Geffen, one of the creators of the DreamWorks film company, it was bought by a Mexican collector of painting masterpieces in 2006, who paid $140 million for it.

14. Francis Bacon “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” (1969) - $142,400,000

Three Studies of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969

The painting depicts Bacon's friend, the British artist Lucian Freud. He is sitting on a chair wearing a white shirt with rolled up sleeves, standing out clearly against the bright yellow background, which was not a typical color for Bacon’s works. 

In 1970, the three parts were sold to different buyers (two canvases were taken to Europe and one to Asia). In the late 1980s, all three parts were bought by a collector from Rome, and then, many years later, in 2013, the triptych was sold to  Helen Wynne. 

13.Gustav Klimt “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” (1913) - $150,000,000

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1913

Adele Bloch-Bauer must have been an inimitable and deeply impressive woman because she was the only woman who Gustav Klimt painted twice. She was evidently a true love of the artist. 

In 2006, the heiress Maria Altman put the canvas up for auction at Christie’s, where it was bought by Oprah Winfrey for $87,900,000.

In 2016, Oprah sold it to a buyer from China who still stays unknown but undoubtedly has a perfect artistic taste.

12. Pablo Picasso “The Dream” (1932) - $155,000,000

The Dream, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, The Dream, 1932

In 1932, Pablo Picasso painted a portrait of the woman he loved - Marie-Therese Walter - in a surrealist style. The artist was said to be incredibly inspired which allowed him to start and finish the work within one day.

In 1941, an American married couple, Victor and Sally Ganz, bought the “Dream” for $ 7,000. In 1997, Wolfgang Flötl purchased it at Christie’s auction for a considerable amount of $48,5 million.

In 2001, it was resold to billionaire Steve Wynn. The price increased to $60 million. In 2013, it passed into the hands of Steven Cohen who paid $155 million.

11. Amedeo Modigliani “Reclining Nude on the left side” (1917) - $157,000,000

Reclining Nude on the left side, Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani, Reclining Nude on the left side, 1917

This is one of five paintings of nude women by the Italian master that have ever come up for auction. In total, Modigliani created 22 paintings with reclining and 13 with seated naked women. 

“Nude Reclining on her Left Side” was painted by Modigliani three years before his death. In the same year, it was presented at the first and only solo exhibition of the artist in Paris. The paintings showing naked women were considered offensive and caused a scandal. As a result, the police demanded that the exhibition be closed immediately.

In 2018, the painting was sold at the auction to an unknown buyer for $157 mln.

10. Roy Lichtenstein “Masterpiece” (1962) - $165,000,000

Masterpiece, Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein, Masterpiece, 1962

It took the artist decades to find his own style. Lichtenstein experimented with various directions: surrealism, cubism, expressionism. Ben-Day dots became his signature style. This is a technique that was invented in 1879 by Benjamin Henry Day for industrial printing.

"Masterpiece" shows a comic image of a man and a woman. She tells him that his work is a true masterpiece, and that very soon he will excite all in New York. 

In 2017, it was acquired by the famous art collector Stephen A. Cohen making “Masterpiece” the most expensive painting by Roy Lichtenstein. 

9. Amedeo Modigliani “Nu Couché” (1917) also known as “Red Nude” or ‘Reclining Nude” - $170,405,000

Nu Couché, Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani, Nu Couché, 1917

It should be noted that erotic paintings evoked controversial feelings at the time of Modigliani and even caused scandals. However, today they are becoming more and more desirable for collectors all over the world.

The seller of this painting, Italian collector Gianni Mattioli, expected to receive $100 million for it. Six contenders competed for the lot, and eventually the winner was a buyer from China who bargained over the phone. The painting was sold in 9 minutes because that was the first time it had been auctioned. 

8. Pablo Picasso “Women of Algiers (Version O)” (1955) - $ 179,400,000

Women of Algiers, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, Women of Algiers, 1955

Taking inspiration from the painting by Eugène Delacroix, who depicted women of Algiers in the apartment, Pablo Picasso created a series of 15 artworks and dedicated them to his late friend Henri Matisse. The most expensive of them is Version O. 

Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline Rock posed for the entire series.

In 1997 it was auctioned at Christie’s and purchased for $31,900,000.

In 2015, a member of the Qatari government bought the painting and paid a really huge sum for it.

7. Rembrandt van Rijn “Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit” (1634) - $180,000,000

Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, Rembrandt van Rijn
Rembrandt van Rijn, Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, 1634

In 1634, the Dutchman Rembrandt van Rijn, in the honor of the birth of their first child, painted two separate portraits of Martin and Opijen. He was able to perfectly render human feelings and emotions at such an important moment in their lives. 

Rembrandt was paid 1000 guldens, which is equal to about 200,000 euros now.

From 1878 to 2015, the canvas was owned by the Rothschild family.

However, in 2015, the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum purchased the paintings together for rotating exhibitions.

6. Gustav Klimt “Water Serpents II” (1904-1907) - $ 183,300,000

Water Serpents II, Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt, Water Serpents II, 1904-1907

The canvas depicts beautiful girls, whose graceful figures embody the grace of snakes. Klimt’s painting is full of eroticism but the painter claimed that all erotic images can be called works of art. 

The exact price of this work is unknown, since it was sold at a closed auction but various sources claim that this amount was between $183 million and $187 million. The painting was purchased by the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2012, who later sold it for $170 million.

5. Mark Rothko “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” (1951) - $186,000,000

No. 6 Violet, Green and Red, Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko, No. 6 Violet, Green and Red,1951

One of the brightest representatives of expressionism, who was born in Latvia, loved the play of color. What did Rothko want to say when creating this picture? His mission, like any expressionist, was to evoke a wide range of emotions by combining colors, using texture and working with shapes.

In 2014, the cult artwork was bought by Dmitry Rybolovlev for his private collection. 

4. Jackson Pollock “Number 17A” (1948) - $200,000,000

Number 17A, Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock, Number 17A, 1948

The most expensive masterpiece by Pollock made him famous in August 1949, when it appeared on the cover of Life magazine. A remarkable fact is that Number 17A was created a year after Pollock invented and applied his drip technique for painting. 

In 2015, American billionaire Kenneth Griffin bought the artwork for a record amount from the David Gaffin Foundation.

3. Paul Gauguin “When Will You Marry Me” (1892) - $210,000,000 

When Will You Marry Me, Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin, When Will You Marry Me, 1892

Paul Gauguin worked as a stockbroker in Paris. Tired of the dullness and lack of spirituality of the city, he decided to take a desperate step and left for Tahiti. In this exotic country, Paul became an artist and created lots of masterpieces admired by art lovers worldwide. 

The radiant colors of the canvas mesmerized Rudolf  Stechlin, who bought it in 2015 at a private auction for a breathtaking sum of $210 million.

2. Paul Cézanne “The Card Players” (1895) - $250,000,000

The Card Players, Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne, The Card Players, 1895

The French artist Paul Cézanne created a series of 5 paintings showing men playing poker. The versions are of different sizes, the number of players is not the same in them, and the settings, where the game takes place, are different, too. 

Four of the paintings are kept in museums in the USA and Europe, and the fifth, belonged to a Greek billionaire until 2011. Shortly before his death, the collector decided to sell the work. As a result, the painting went to the royal family from the rich Arab country of Qatar.

1. Willem de Kooning “Interchange” (1955) - $300,000,000

Interchange, Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning, Interchange, 1955

According to the author, this more than unusual masterpiece is an attempt to render the ugly reality of the time after WWII. It is also striking that Kooning admitted he had changed his artistic manner under the influence of the American abstractionist Franz Kline though Interchange has nothing in common with the style of Kline, who mostly used wide careless brushstrokes of white and black paint in his work.

In 1955 Kooning sold the painting to Edgar Kaufman for $4,000.

In 1989, it was bought by a Japanese dealer at Sotheby's auction for $20,7 million.

In 1990, the music producer David Geffen became its owner. 

In 2015, an American investor paid for it a record 300,000,000, making “Interchange” the most expensive painting in the world (until 2017).

Why do we mention that “Interchange” was the most costly until 2017?

Because the Grand Prix in this rating goes to the most controversial masterpiece nowadays, which was painted by the genius Leonardo da Vinci. 

The intrigue is that it is not the Mona Lisa. Do you want to know why?

Find out more on the site ******

Mona Lisa is a priceless piece of the legacy of mankind and is not to be sold, though if it was, the estimated price could be about $1,000,000,000 or even more.

There have been lots of disputes on the genuineness of another legendary painting by da Vinci, “Savior of the World”. 

For many years the painting was considered lost, and when it was finally found, its authenticity was not recognized for many years. 

In 2017, the auction house Christie’s eventually named “Savior of the World” as the last work by da Vinci to be sold to a private person. The masterpiece was purchased by the prince of Saudi Arabia for $450 million and received the title of the most expensive painting on the planet. However, a terrible scandal broke out later because experts failed to confirm the genuineness of the painting, since the analysis was almost impossible due to numerous restorations. In 2018-2019, the painting was not shown to the public, and there were even rumors that it had been stolen.

Savior of the World, da Vinci
da Vinci, Savior of the World