Salvator Mundi–the most expensive painting in the world, as absurd as its price, so is its story.
But many came before it, breaking records, pushing limits, and surprising the world with their exorbitant amount.
The disbelief isn’t always about the price, but also the story it brings with it.
These valuable paintings have been through thefts, seizures, legal battles, and controversies which add an allure for its buyers and viewers.
This is a detailed and updated list of 2021 about the most expensive paintings sold at auction or in private sales. It includes paintings sold at or more than $135 million.
This article aims to give you an accurate insight into the sale and the significance of the painting.
These are the highest known prices paid for paintings in an auction.
19. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt
Price: $135 Million
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is also known as the ‘Lady in Gold’, which was Commissioned by Adele Bloch’s husband – Ferdinand.
Painted in the year 1907, the painting portrays the subject on a golden throne
Wearing a tight golden dress in a triangular shape, which merges with the background.
In the 1940s, the Nazis stole the painting and renamed it ‘The Woman in Gold’, to remove any references to the Jewish family name.
The painting is to return to the family with the help of Bloch-Bauer heirs.
This striking portrait is on display at the Neue Galerie, New York City.
Now you can get a classy portrait painting of yourself made by professionals. Click below to know more.
18. Woman III by Willem de Kooning
Price: $137.5 Million
Painted by the expressionist artist Kooning in the early 1950s, this abstract painting is one of a series of six paintings.
The unusual portrayal of a woman drawn in an almost graffiti-like style, with gigantic, vacuous eyes, massive breasts, toothy smiles, and claw-like hands set against colorful layers of paint.
From the late 1970s to 1994, this painting was part of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art collection,
but with the changing views and rules of the country, this art was no longer on display after 1979.
Today, this million-dollar painting is a part of a private collection of the hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen.
17. No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock
Price: $140 Million
This abstract artwork features the classic Pollock drip painting with organic lines and droplets of red, yellow, blue, and grey paint in various shades.
Firstly, this artwork is considered a key work in the abstract expressionist movement, not only is it an important piece of art, but this artwork was also the most expensive painting at its time.
Secondly, pollock has used unconventional paints to paint this masterpiece, which measures 8 feet by 4 feet.
No.5 is often said to be one of the most recognized paintings in the world. This Jackson Pollocks painting is 8 feet long.
The exorbitant amount proved not only the strength of the art market at the time but also the increasing interest in contemporary art of the patrons.
Pollock is widely recognized for his contribution to the abstract expressionist movement.
This artwork is one of the most expensive paintings of pollock, which is today part of a Private Collection in New York.
16. Twelve Landscape Screens by Qi Baishi
Price: $140.8 Million
The artist—best known for his calligraphy and brush painting—created the work in 1925, at the age of 62.
The ‘Twelve Landscape Screens’ is not only his most famous works but also his largest.
Depicting the beauty of twelve spectacular landscapes, inspired by Qi travels across china.
Qi Baishi is the most influential of all the Chinese artists in the 20th century.
apparently work is classified as one of the most expensive paintings ever sold at a Chinese art auction.
This costly Painting is also the first Chinese artwork to be bought above $100 million at the auction.
The painting was actioned at the Beijing Poly Auction in 2017.
15. Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon
Price: $142.4 Million
Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud were best friends but artistic rivals, and this triptych is a celebration of the masterpiece that pays tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists.
Painted in 1969, this triptych was when bacon did paint the three canvases simultaneously.
The ‘Three studies of Lucian Freud’ was subjected to fierce betting, as it is a rare find.
This expensive artwork was part of a collection at Christie’s New York auction house on 12 November 2013, where it did shatter several records at the time.
14. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II by Gustav Klimt
Price: $150 Million
Another striking painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was commissioned by her husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer.
Did you know this famous artwork was once owned by Oprah Winfrey! Who purchased it at Christie’s in 2006 for $87.9 million.
The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II was sold by Oprah in 2016 to a private buyer in China.
Currently, this painting is not available for public view.
13. Le Rêve by Pablo Picasso
Price $155 million
Pablo painted this in 1932, at 50 portraying his misters of 22 years old, from his imagination.
Victor and Sally Ganz of New York City bought the Le Rêve (The Dream) for $7,000 in 1941.
After their death, the entire collection, including the Le Rêve, was sold at christie’s auction house on November 11, 1997.
Sold for an incredibly high price of $48.4 million, making it the Sixth most expensive painting to be bought during that time.
The buyer who purchased Le Rêve at Christie’s in 1997 was an investment fund manager, Wolfgang Flöttl.
He, later on, sold the Le Rêve to casino magnate, Steve Wynn for an undisclosed sum, estimated to be about $60 million.
12. Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani
Price $157.2 Million
The painting depicts a compelling gaze of the artist’s unknown model looking unflinchingly over her shoulder.
This is Modigliani’s only full-length nude model painting, furthermore, it is also his largest painting ever.
This painting is a part of a prized series of nude paintings, produced between 1916 and 1919, that caused a scandal when they were first shown in Paris.
In 2018, Sotheby’s auctioned the Nu couché (Sur le côté gauche) in New York.
apparently, the first and winning bid came in from a bidder on the phone with Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s co-head of Impressionist and Modern art worldwide.
11. Masterpiece by Roy Lichtenstein
Price: $165 Million
Created in 1962, this pop art painting features the classic Ben-Day dots and narrative content contained within a speech balloon.
In January 2017, Agnes Gund- a noted art collector and philanthropist, sold this valuable painting for $165 million.
Which was then bought by Hedge-fund billionaire and an avid art collector, Steve Cohen.
Agnes Gund later revealed that the painting was sold for a specific cause to “to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform and seeks to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.”
This painting is not only an iconic artwork in the genre but also is Roy Lichtenstein’s most expensive painting.
10. Nu couché by Amedeo Modigliani
Price: $170.4 Million
On 10th November 2015, Christie’s auctioned the Nu couché (Reclining Nude) at a stunning price.
This modernist masterpiece broke the previous auction record for the artist by almost $100 million and in addition, it became the second-highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art.
Bought by a former taxi driver turned billionaire art collector, Liu Yiqian, and his wife Wang Wei for the Record-Breaking price of $170-Million.
This art collector displays this expensive painting in one of his two museums in Shanghai.
During its purchase, it was said – an extraordinary painting comes at an extraordinary price – indeed! It did come at an astonishing price point.
9. Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) by Pablo Picasso
Price: $179.4 million
Sold at Christie’s 2015 “Looking Forward to the Past” sale showcasing 20th-century art.
Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) is a unique painting by Pablo Picasso, bought by the Qatari royal family.
The artwork is one in a 15-piece collection owned by the Ganz family, with an unparalleled magnitude that was certainly inspired by African and Iberian art.
Picasso’s Women of Algiers is a representative of Algerian concubines in their harem with a hookah used to smoke hashish or opium.
Christie calls this painting a phenomenon, with its references to Cubism and a response to the artist Delacroix’s work as well as an echo of Matisse’s work.
8. Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt
Price: $180 Million
This rare portrait, known to be the only full-length paintings by Rembrandt which is now owned by the Dutch and French governments, on behalf of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris.
The joint private acquisition of Rembrandt’s most valuable art piece depicting Dutch couple Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit.
Christie’s auction house was the mediator for this deal, they purchased this rare painting through a private deal for €80 million each.
While the two paintings are owned separately, because of French law, the museums have promised that it will always exhibit the pair together at either museum.
7. Wasserschlangen II by Gustav Klimt
Price: $183.8 million
Wasserschlangen (Water Serpents) II is a follow-up painting to Water Serpents I.
This striking painting showcases the sensuality of women’s bodies and the sexual intimacy between them.
Known for its rich and complicated history, the Nazis had seized the painting during World War II, and more recently, it was part of the controversy surrounding its record 2013 sale.
In 2019, this artwork became one of the most expensive paintings in the world and the most expensive work by Klimt to sell.
6. No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) by Mark Rothko
Price $186 Million
Made in 1951, purchased by Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2014 as the most expensive buy at the time.
Meanwhile, Rothko is amongst the pivotal post-war artists that progressed the Abstract Expressionist movement.
Painting in a pastel style giving the artwork a warmth and emotional expression, allowing the viewers to resonate.
This expensive art was involved in the infamous Bouvier Affair and is still a Part of Dmitry Rybolovlev’s private collection.
5. Number 17A by Jackson Pollock
Price: $200 Million
Known as the father of abstract expressionism, Jackson Pollock is famous for his dripping technique which he used a lot from 1947 to 1950.
Initially, drip paintings by Pollock were greeted with intense public scrutiny and were not considered popular, which let these paintings have low value in art markets.
The painting was acquired by the billionaire Ken Griffin during a private sale in 2016 as a part of a deal with the David Geffen Foundation.
The deal also includes the purchase of the painting ‘Interchange’, making it a total of $500 million deal.
The price set the world record as one of the most expensive paintings to be ever sold at that point.
4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo? by Paul Gaugain
Price: $210 Million
painted in 1892, the Nafea Faa Ipoipo is a post-Impressionist work by Paul Gaugain.
The painting depicting two Tahiti women among a colorful landscape, sold at a private auction.
The owner of the painting is formally unknown, but apparently, the art world believes that the royal family of Qatar now owns it.
Apparently, Gauguin took inspiration to paint this artwork from his stay in Tahiti.
3. The Card Players by Paul Cézanne
Price: $250 Million
The card players have 5 known versions painted as part of Paul Cézanne’s post-Impressionist series, completed in the early to mid-1890s.
This iconic artwork depicts two men with an intense expression playing cards while seated at a small wooden table.
Owned by the Royal Family of Qatari since 2011, the painting’s other 4 versions can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation.
2. Interchange by Willem Kooning
Price: $ 300 million
This expensive oil painting is an example of abstract expressionism, inspired by Kooning’s surroundings whilst living in NYC.
Bought by Kenneth Griffin, The CEO of hedge fund Citadel for US$300 million in 2015.
This famous painting is known to be one of his first abstract landscape works which today hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago.
1. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
Price: $450.3 Million
This Leonardo’s painting depicts Christ making a cross with his right hand and holding a translucent orb in his left.
Salvator Mundi was painted in the 1500s and it is, unfortunately, often questioned for its authenticity.
It was for a long time thought to be the copy of the lost original of the artist, which was later discovered to be the original that was veiled with overpainting.
The National Gallery of London exhibited this priceless painting in 2011 as the “Lost Leonardo”
In 2017, it sold at Christie’s auction for an exorbitant amount of $450 million to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman.
This is unquestionably the most expensive painting in the world, which is currently not available for public viewing.
Our list of most expensive paintings features some of the most incredibly priced artworks, which we hope you enjoyed reading.
Please note: The paintings that were created before 1800 and painted by old masters are owned or held at museums to allow viewing by the public.
Since these museums rarely sell them, they are considered priceless and thus are not part of the list.
This list quotes the original price paid for the painting in United States Dollars and does not include their inflation-adjusted value.
And, you might still ask if these prices are justified?
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”—and a masterpiece is invaluable.
What are your thoughts on these expensive paintings?
Let us know in the comment section below!
You know – a painting says a lot about its characters and the owners.
It speaks to the viewer and helps leave a lasting impression,
E.g., it can convey an emotion of love through a family portrait or respect through a memorial portrait.
You can get yours here!!
Here is a quick recap of the top most expensive paintings:
- Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci—$450.3 Million
- Interchange by Willem Kooning—$300 Million
- The Card Players by Paul Cézanne—$250 Million
- Nafea Faa Ipoipo? by Paul Gaugain—$210 Million
- by Jackson Pollock—$200 Million
- No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) by Mark Rothko—$186 Million
- ‘Wasserschlangen II’ by gustav Klimt—$183.8 Million
- Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit – Rembrandt—$180 Million
- Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) by Pablo Picasso—$179.4 Million
- Nu couché by Amedeo Modigliani—$170.4 Million
- Masterpiece by Roy Lichtenstein—$165.0 Million,
- Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani—$157.2 Million
- Le Rêve by Pablo Picasso—$155 Million
- Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II by Gustav Klimt—$150 Million
- Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon—$142.4 Million
- Twelve Landscape Screens by Qi Baishi—$140.8 Million
- No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock—$140 Million
- Woman III by Willem de Kooning—$137.5 Million
- Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt—$135 Million.
We try our best to include the most accurate details about the information we provide; taking our facts and figures from authentic sources.
If you see something on this list of most expensive paintings that is inaccurate, invalid, or you would like it removed, please contact us.
If you liked this article, do share it further!
And if you have reached here, thank you!