The following ten paintings are the most expensive in the world, well at least the paintings the highest known prices are paid for. It is imposible to tell for example what the Mona Lisa is worth …
10: The Scream.
One of the world’s most recognisable paintings, Edvard Munch’s 1895 masterpiece “The Scream” depicts a tormented figure screaming in front of a warped, dreamlike landscape. It sold for nearly $120 million in 2012.
9: Garçon à la pipe.
Pablo Picasso painted “boy with a pipe” in 1905, when he was only 24; it is one of the most important paintings of his early “Rose Period.” In 2004, it was sold by Sotheby’s for $104 million, the equivalent of $129 million in 2013 dollars.
8: Bal du moulin de la Galette.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s 1876 impressionist crowd scene went for just over $78 million when Japanese industrialist Ryoei Saito purchased it in 1990. This sum would be the equivalent of $141.5 million in today’s terms.
7: Three Studies of Lucian Freud.
The most modern painting in the Top 10, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” was painted by controversial British artist Francis Bacon in 1969. It was acquired by an unidentified person or institution in 2013 at a cost of $142.4 million.
6: Portrait of Dr. Gachet.
Vincent Van Gogh’s 1890 portrait depicts the doctor sitting at a table in a flat cap with a glass of wine. Like Renoir’s “Bal du moulin de la Galette,” it was purchased in 1990 by prominent Japanese collector Ryoei Saito. Saito paid $82.5 million in 1990 dollars, the equivalent of $149.5 million today. This was the highest price ever paid for a painting at a public auction as opposed to a private sale. Following Saito’s death in 1996, the whereabouts of this painting remain unknown.
5: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
Austrian painter Gustav Klimt’s 1907 portrait is one of the most famous paintings of the Vienna Secession movement. It sold in 2006 to New York’s Neue Galerie, which had opened in 2001. The museum and its patron Ronald Lauder paid $135 million for the piece. At that time it was the highest price ever paid for a single painting, the equivalent of $155.8 million in 2013 dollars.
4: Le Rêve.
Picasso’s second entry in the Top 10 was painted in 1932 and purchased in 2013 by businessman Steven A. Cohen for $155 million. The 1932 portrait of Picasso’s mistress is a simple, bright composition of distorted images that nonetheless gives of an impression of happy, relaxed sensuality. The contrast between this painting and Picasso’s #9 entry on this list shows the dramatic development in the artist’s style over his long career.
3: Woman III.
This modern piece by Dutch-American expressionist Willem de Kooning is Steven A. Cohen’s second purchase in the Top 10. The tycoon bought it in 2006 for $137.5 million, equivalent to nearly $160 million in 2013.
2: No. 5, 1948.
Like “Woman III,” this piece by American abstract painter Jackson Pollock came from the collection of media mogul David Geffen. For decades it was held in an art museum in Tehran until the Iranian revolution, which banned the publicly display of nudes, even a highly stylised nude like this one. It was sold to financier David Martinez in 2006 for $140 million, equal to about $162.7 million today.
1: The Card Players.
The most expensive painting ever purchased was Paul Cézanne’s “The Card Players,” one of a series of paintings of the same subject completed in the late 19th century. This impressionist masterpiece was purchased by the state of Qatar in 2011 for over $259 million (about $269.4 million in 2013 terms). This puts it at more than $100 million more than the second-most expensive painting. The exact sum paid for the painting has never been publicly released, so this value is based on estimates; it might even be more.