The world's most famous paintings, especially works done before 1800, are generally owned by museums, which very rarely sell them, and as such, they are quite literally priceless. Guinness World Records lists the Mona Lisa as having the highest insurance value for a painting in history. It was assessed at US$100 million on December 14, 1962, before the painting toured the U.S. for several months. However, the Louvre chose to spend the money that would have been spent on the insurance premium on security instead. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be approximately US$670 million in 2006.
This is a list of the most expensive paintings ever sold:
1. JACKSON POLLOCK: "Number 5, 1948", 1948
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: David Martínez (claimed)
Right now, this stunning "drip" by Jackson Pollock is the most expensive painting ever sold, though the stunning price is still not confirmed (but also not denied). The exorbitant sum demonstrates not only the strenght of the Art market, but also the increasing interest for the contemporary works of Art.
2. WILLEM DE KOONING: "Woman III", 1952-53
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Steven Cohen
Pollock the first. De Kooning second. The inmediate conclusion is that the american abstract expressionism has displaced the impressionism as the most sought-after Art period. This painting is the only "Woman" by Willem de Kooning still in private hands. One of this women -described by T. Hess as "black goddesses"- has been chosen by theartwolf.com as one of the 50 masterworks of the history of painting.
3. GUSTAV KLIMT: "Adele Bloch-bauer I", 1907
Private sale, 2006. Buyer: Ronald Lauder.
The acquisition of this iconic work by cosmetic magnate Ronald Lauder caused a shock in the Art world, not only for the spectacular sum paid for it, but also for the way it was sold, far away from the noisy auction houses. The painting was part of a group of five canvases recently returned to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The Nazis confiscated his paintings during the World War II, and after the war, the canvases were placed at the National Gallery of Austria in 1948.
4. PABLO PICASSO: "Garçon a la pipe", 1904
Sotheby's New York , May 2004. Buyer: anonymous
The sale of this young smoker was a milestone in the Art auctions world. First, it's still the most expensive painting ever sold at auction (the case of the Klimt is a private sale). But it also broke the record that Vincent van Gogh held since 1990, and it was the first time that the $100 million barrier was broken. Although the name of the buyer was not revealed, some sources says that it could be Guido Barilla, the Italian pasta magnate.
5. PABLO PICASSO: "Dora Maar au chat", 1941
Sotheby's New York , May 2006. Buyer: anonymous
Dora Maar (1907-1997) met Picasso in 1930, and their sentimental relation lasts until 1946. A native from Paris , grown in Argentina and fluent in Spanish, Maar was one of Picasso's favourite models. This painting, measuring 130- 97 cm , was recently rediscovered and authenticated by Picasso's daughter, Maya Widmaier Picasso. You can read theArtWolf's article informing about this sale in this link.
6.GUSTAV KLIMT: "Adele Bloch-bauer II ", 1912
Christie's New York , November 2006. Buyer: unknown
Sold only a few months later than Klimt's first version of Adele, this extremely appealing canvas was the star lot in a highly succesful auction in which four works by Klimt -including this- totalled a stunning $192 million
7. FRANCIS BACON: "Triptych 1976"
Sotheby's New York , May 2008. Buyer: European private
Francis Bacon is one of the most sought-after names in the Art market, and this work easily surpassed its impressive $70 million estimate
8. VINCENT VAN GOGH: "Portrait of Doctor Gachet", 1890
Christie's New York , May 1990. Buyer: Ryoei Saito
The story about this famous and brilliant work resumes by itself the "Japanese buyer boom" on the late 80s and early 90s: great painting, sold for an astronomic amount of money to a Japanese buyer (Ryoei Saito), who was later ruined, and the whereabouts of the painting are now unknown. Some sources places it in Europe , waiting for its return to the Art market
9. JASPER JOHN: "False Start", 1959
Private sale, Autumn 2006. Buyer: Unknown
This iconic work by Johns, sold by David Geffen, is the second highest price ever paid for work by a contemporary artist
10. PIERRE AUGUSTE RENOIR: "Le moulin de la Galette", 1876
Sotheby's New York , May 1990. Buyer: Ryoei Saito
Another victim of the Japanese "buy it and forget it" boom was this masterpiece by Renoir, the little sister of the version now in the Orsay. As the previous painting, it was bought by Ryoei Saito for $78.1 million at Sotheby's, 1990, and sold in 1997 to a "European private collector" for $50 million