The Most Expensive Artworks Ever Sold At Auction
Art4 Minutes Read

The Most Expensive Artworks Ever Sold At Auction

November 27, 2021 Share

People who appreciate art typically marvel at it’s capacity to change their perspectives. But how much would you splurge on a masterpiece?

Art is important. It takes us out of our mundane and celebrates human creativity and ingenuity. It’s simply a channel for so much raw emotion, life experiences and contemplation.

The greatness of art, in general, is that there is such a diverse and varied spectrum of work. Everyone has their favourite artist or artistic period that they think ruled supreme over the rest. Nowadays, people are so passionate about collecting art that it’s no surprise original pieces by some of the worlds iconic masters have been sold at auctions for astronomical prices.

Here are the top five most expensive artworks ever sold at auction:

5. Francis Bacon: Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) – $158.2 million 

A member of Christie’s staff looks at Francis Bacon’s ‘Three Studies of Lucien Freud.

These 3 Francis Bacon’s studies of Lucian Freud from 1969, one of the greatest figurative painters of the century, have sold at an astronomical price.

There were lots of photographs taken of Freud sitting on a bed to model for Bacon’s paintings. He noticed that they often conflated different things as the friendship often turned verbally violent. 

The magic and meaning of the work can only really be seen in his painting technique which has intense brush strokes across the figure’s face to defy the viewpoint of the painting.

4. Amedeo Modigliani: Nu couché (1917) – $162 million

Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu couche (sur le côté gauche),” 1917. Sotheby’s.

The Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani created an oil canvas painting in 1917 that became one of the world’s most wildly exhibited and reproduced works. 

Seeing as it was created more than a hundred years ago, its sensuality startled and hypnotized art fans when it was first exhibited in Paris. The artwork was part of an essential series of paintings that gave the traditional nude a modern twist. 

The prominence and the importance of this painting are vital in art history as the masterpiece challenged the forms of beauty. It soon made its way into a private collection. 

3. Van Gogh: Portrait of Dr Gachet (1890) – $163.4 million

Portrait of Dr Gachet

According to Kooness, this painting by Vincent van Gogh is “sad but gentle, precise, and intelligent; the doctor’s gloomy face carries the heartbroken expression of our time.” There were two replicas made of the painting. One was given to the doctor himself, while the other was sold to Van Gogh’s sister soon after the artist completed it.

2. Pablo Picasso: Les Femmes d’Alger (1955) – $195.8 million

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), 1955. Oil on canvas. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2015

This man is known the world over, the one and only Pablo Picasso. Done in 1955, this painting, in particular, is one of the most famous pieces in the series. In 2017 it arrived in Christie’s New York for a second time. 

1. Leonardo da Vinci: Salvator Mundi (c. 1500) – $475.4 million


Now, we come to the most expensive painting of all time. It’s the work of the visionary master Leonardo da Vinci. This 500-year-old painting has to be excessively special to sell for this kind of price.

The painting features a portrait of Salvator Mundi, who draws your eye in. It also has a grand origin and back story. Although there are paintings like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, a near priceless piece that will more than likely never be put on sale, through the years, many high-profile works of art have exchanged hands in the auction room for more money than you could ever imagine.

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Author: Michelle Laver
Amedeo Modigliani
Francis Bacon
Leonardo da Vinci
Most expensive
Pablo Picasso
van gogh