Special Report

This Is the Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold

Source: Andrew Burton / Getty Images News via Getty Images

10. Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”), 1955
> Artist: Pablo Picasso
> Sale price: $179,400,000, May 11, 2015
> Inflation-adjusted price: $220,507,990

From 1954 to 1955, Picasso produced a series of 15 paintings entitled “Les femmes d’Alger (Versions A through O)” inspired by an 1834 painting by Eugéne Delacroix. The series was initially purchased by art collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, who eventually sold 10 of the paintings. The remaining five were sold at Christie’s in 1997 as part of the Ganz Collection, with Version O subsequently selling again in 2015 for $179.4 million.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

9. Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, 1634
> Artist: Rembrandt van Rijn
> Sale price: $180,000,000 (160 million), Feb. 1, 2016
> Inflation-adjusted price: $221,893,040

This set of full-length wedding portraits of a Dutch couple was purchased in 1877 by Baron Gustave de Rothschild and was rarely displayed thereafter. In 2016, owner Eric de Rothschild sold the paintings for €80 million apiece, through Christie’s to both the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum. The two museums will alternate showings of the portraits, displaying them side by side, but owning them separately.

Source: Public Domain / Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia Commons

8. No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red), 1951
> Artist: Mark Rothko
> Sale price: $186,000,000 (€140 million), Aug. (day unknown), 2014
> Inflation-adjusted price: $228,575,150

A key piece in the so-called Bouvier Affair, in which Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier allegedly defrauded clients by buying paintings at lower prices, then overcharging collectors for the purchases that he pretended to broker, this abstract expressionist piece by Latvian-American painter Mark Rothko sold to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2014 for €140 million, which was potentially 80 million more than Bouvier had paid for it.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. Wasserschlangen (Water Serpents) II, 1904-1907
> Artist: Gustav Klimt
> Sale price: $183,800,000, date unknown, 2013 (resold for $170 million in 2015)
> Inflation-adjusted price: $231,912,630

Another piece implicated in the Bouvier Affair, “Wasserschlangen II” was originally owned by Viennese Jew Jenny Steiner, who fled Austria during World War II. The painting was then confiscated by the Nazis and ended up in the hands of Nazi filmmaker Gustav Ucicky. Ucicky’s widow and Steiner’s heirs eventually worked out a deal to split the proceeds and sold the painting to Bouvier, who flipped it to Dmitry Rybolovlev for $183.8 million.

Source: benkrut / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

6. Number 17A, 1948
> Artist: Jackson Pollock
> Sale price: $200,000,000, Sept. (day unknown), 2015
> Inflation-adjusted price: $245,683,670

In 2015, Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager and board member of the Art Institute of Chicago, bought this Pollock piece from the David Geffen Foundation for $200 million. “Number 17A” is considered one of Pollock’s most notable works and was featured in a 1949 edition of Life Magazine that pushed the artist into the spotlight. Griffin loaned the work to the Art Institute of Chicago.

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