20 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold

With wealthy investors buying art at record prices recently, ThinkAdvisor gathered a list of the top-ticket items

“The Scream” sold for nearly $120 million, and that only put it in the middle of the pack. “The Scream” sold for nearly $120 million, and that only put it in the middle of the pack.

Another day, another $100 million or more spent on art at the top auction houses.

First, last week, there was the sale of Francis Bacon’s 1969 “Three Studies of Lucien Freud,” which sold for $142.4 million, the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, after a war among seven bidders at Christie’s in New York.

That was followed a day later on Wednesday by the news that an unnamed collector had spent $104.5 million for an Andy Warhol painting auctioned by Sotheby’s. The 1963 artwork, “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster),” is just as grisly as it sounds. It was the last of four double-paneled paintings depicting car wrecks that Warhol painted the year John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The others are in museums.

The same auction featured several works owned by Steven A. Cohen, head of the troubled SAC Capital and vaunted art collector, that fetched more than $77 million in total, leading CNBC's John Carney to quip, "If Cohen thinks this is a good time to sell, who on earth would want to buy?"

Apparently, plenty of people. (Cohen bought two of the pieces on this list.)

The reasons people pay so much for art are many, from emotional appeal to vanity. In the end, an artwork can be a good investment. That Warhol painting fetched at least 25% more than the pre-auction estimate.

(For your art-owning clients, see Kathleen Tierney's blog on how to protect your art.)

That got ThinkAdvisor wondering which artworks have brought the most cash to their owners. The works that have brought the highest prices are all, with one exception, from the late 19th or 20th centuries. Some artists made the list more than once, including van Gogh, Picasso and Warhol.

Check out the 20 Most Expensive Paintings in the World listed from “cheapest” to highest price, adjusted for inflation.

Massacre of the Innocents (Peter Paul Rubens, 1611)

20. Massacre of the Innocents (Peter Paul Rubens, 1611)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $99.7 million ($76.7 million)

Sale Date: July 2, 2002

Seller: Anonymous Austrian family

Buyer: Kenneth Thomson

Dora Maar au Chat (Picasso, 1941)

19. Dora Maar au Chat (Picasso, 1941)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $100.1 million ($95.2 million)

Sale Date: May 3, 2006

Seller: Gidwitz family

Buyer: Boris Ivanshvili

Adele Bloch-Bauer II (Gustav Klimt, 1912)

18. Adele Bloch-Bauer II (Gustav Klimt, 1912)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price and year sold): $102 million ($87.9 million)

Sale Date: Nov. 2, 2006

Seller: Maria Altmann

Buyer: Anonymous

Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe (Vincent van Gogh, 1889)

17. Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe (Vincent van Gogh, 1889)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $102.1 million ($71.5 million)

Sale Date: Nov. 19, 1998

Seller: Heirs of Jacque Koerfer

Buyer: Anonymous

 

Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (Andy Warhol, 1963)

16. Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (Andy Warhol, 1963)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $104.5 million

Sale Date: Nov. 13, 2013

Seller: Anonymous

Buyer: Anonymous

 

Eight Elvises (Andy Warhol, 1963)

15. Eight Elvises (Andy Warhol, 1963)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $108.1 million ($100 million)

Sale Date: October 2008

Seller: Annibale Berlingieri

Buyer: Anonymous

Irises (Vincent van Gogh, 1889)

14. Irises (Vincent van Gogh, 1889)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $109.4 million ($53.9 million)

Sale Date: Nov. 11, 1987

Seller: Son of Joan Whitney Payson

Buyer: Alan Bond

Portrait of Joseph Roulin (Vincent van Gogh, 1889)

13. Portrait of Joseph Roulin (Vincent van Gogh, 1889)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $111 million ($58 million and exchange of other works)

Sale Date: Aug. 1, 1989

Seller: Private collection, Zurich, Switzerland

Buyer: Museum of Modern Art, New York

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (Picasso, 1932)

12. Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (Picasso, 1932)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $114.3 million ($106.5 million)

Sale Date: May 4, 2010

Seller: Frances Lasker Brody estate

Buyer: Anonymous

Flag (Jasper Johns, 1954)

11. Flag (Jasper Johns, 1954)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $118.3 million ($110 million)

Sale Date: March 2010

Seller: Jean-Christophe Castelli

Buyer: Steven A. Cohen

The Scream (Edward Munch, 1895)

10. The Scream (Edward Munch, 1895)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $122.2 million ($119.9 million)

Sale Date: May 2, 2012

Seller: Petter Olsen

Buyer: Leon Black

Garcon al a Pipe (Picasso, 1905)

9. Garcon al a Pipe (Picasso, 1905)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $126 million ($104.2 million)

Sale Date: May 4, 2004

Seller: Greentree Foundation (Whitney family)

Buyer: Barilla Group

Bal du Moulin de la Galette (Renoir, 1876)

8. Bal du Moulin de la Galette (Renoir, 1876)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $141.5 million ($78.1 million)

Sale Date: May 17, 1990

Seller: Betsey Whitney

Buyer: Ryoei Saito

Three Studies of Lucien Freud (Francis Bacon, 1969)

7. Three Studies of Lucien Freud (Francis Bacon, 1969)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $142.4 million

Sale Date: Nov. 12, 2013

Seller: Anonymous

Buyer: William Acquavella for client (unconfirmed)

Portrait of Dr. Gachet (Vincent van Gogh, 1890) 

6. Portrait of Dr. Gachet (Vincent van Gogh, 1890)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $149.5 million ($82.5 million)

Sale Date: May 15, 1990

Seller: Siegfried Kramarsky family

Buyer: Ryoei Saito

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (Gustav Klimt, 1907)


5. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (Gustav Klimt, 1907)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $155.8 million ($135 million)

Sale Date: June 18, 2006

Seller: Maria Altmann

Buyer: Ronald Lauder, Neue Galerie

Le Reve (Picasso, 1932)

4. Le Reve (Picasso, 1932)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $155.9 million ($155.5 million)

Sale Date: March 26, 2013

Seller: Steve Wynn

Buyer: Steven A. Cohen

Woman III (William de Kooning, 1953)

3. Woman III (William de Kooning, 1953)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $159.8 million ($137.5 million)

Sale Date: Nov. 18, 2006

Seller: David Geffen

Buyer: Steven A. Cohen

No. 5, 1948 (Jackson Pollack, 1948) 

2. No. 5, 1948 (Jackson Pollack, 1948)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $162.7 million ($140 million)

Sale Date: Nov. 2, 2006

Seller: David Geffen

Buyer: David Martinez

The Card Players (Paul Cezanne, 1892-3)

1. The Card Players (Paul Cezanne, 1892-3)

Price Adjusted for Inflation (actual price): $269.4 million ($259 million)

Sale Date:  April 2011

Seller: George Embiricos

Buyer: Royal family of Qatar

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