Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The Price of Beauty

There are a lot of reasons for the incredible price tags on artwork. The commissioning and purchasing of artwork has been a major status symbol for the wealthy for all of recorded history. This became especially true after the Renaissance, when merchants and bankers funded the workshops of Michelangelo, Rubens, and more.

Today, the name recognition of certain artists in the public consciousness has greatly increased the value of their work. In some cases, private collectors are so enthusiastic that they won't balk at the cost. Perhaps more often, the constant price increases make art a sensible investment for the wealthy; artwork in private possession is heritable property, often taxed at low rates if at all, and it grows in value at rates faster than many less reliable investments. 

Below is a list of the most expensive paintings sold, adjusted for inflation, and their year of purchase.

  1. $453 million for Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (2017)
  2. $312 million for Interchange by Willem de Kooning (2015)
  3. $274 million for The Card Players by Paul Cézanne (2011)
  4. $219 million for Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin (2015)
  5. $208 million for Number 17A by Jackson Pollock (2015)
  6. $198 million for Wasserschlangen II (Water Serpents II) by Gustav Klimt (2013)
  7. $196 million for No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko (2014)
  8. $187 million for Les Femmes d'Alger (Version "O") (Women of Algiers [Version "O"]) by Pablo Picasso (2015)
  9. $177 million for Nu couché (Reclining nude) by Amedeo Modigliani (2015)
  10. $165 million for "Masterpiece" by Roy Lichtenstein (2017) 
Source: The Art Wolf
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