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Top 10 Highest Selling Works Of Art
Posted by TK on 12/11/2007 12:44:59 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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1. JACKSON POLLOCK: "Number 5, 1948", 1948
$140 million
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: David Martínez (not confirmed)

Unconfirmed rumors now buzzing the art world place this 4” x 8” "drip" painting by Jackson Pollock as the most expensive painting ever sold, though the $140 million price tag has still not been confirmed (but also not denied). The sale price demonstrates not only the strength of the art market, but also the increasing interest for contemporary works of art.

Jackson Pollock, "Number 5" 1948.

2. WILLEM DE KOONING: "Woman III", 1952-53
$137.5 million
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Steven Cohen

Pollock’s in first place, De Kooning in second. The immediate conclusion is that American abstract expressionism has replaced impressionism as the most sought-after art period. This painting is the only "Woman" by Willem de Kooning still in private hands.

Willem de Kooning "Woman III" 1952-53.

3. GUSTAV KLIMT: "Adele Bloch-Bauer I", 1907
$135 million
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 following a court order by the Austrian government, ending a years-long dispute. His paintings were seized by the Nazis during World War II, and after the war, the canvases were placed in the National Gallery of Austria in 1948.

Adele Bloch-Bauer I, sold for a record $135 million in 2006. Neue Galerie, New York.

4. PABLO PICASSO: "Garçon a la pipe", 1904
$104.1 million
Sotheby's New York, May 4th 2004. Buyer: anonymous

The sale of this young smoker was a landmark in the auction world. First, it's still the most expensive painting ever sold at auction (the others were private sales). 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. The record price was a bit of a surprise to art buyers, since it was painted in the style not usually associated with the pioneering Cubist artist. Although the name of the buyer was not revealed, some sources says that it could be Guido Barilla, the Italian pasta magnate.

Garçon à la Pipe was created during the artist's famous Rose Period, during which Picasso painted with a positive orange and pink palette. The oil on canvas painting, (slightly over 39 × 32 inches), depicts a Parisian boy holding a pipe in his left hand.

Picasso painted Garcon a la Pipe when he was 24!

5. PABLO PICASSO: "Dora Maar au chat", 1941
$95.2 million
Sotheby's New York, May 2006. Buyer: anonymous

Another big surprise followed in 2006, when this painting near doubled its presale estimate and fetched a record $95,200,000 at auction at Sotheby's on May 3, 2006.
Painted in 1941, Picasso's controversial portrait (one of his last) is sometimes described as an unbecoming depiction of his mistress, Dora Maar, who was an artist/photographer. Dora Maar (1907-1997) met Picasso in 1930, and their relationship lasted until 1946. Maar was one of Picasso's favorite models. This painting, measuring 130- 97cm, was recently rediscovered and authenticated by Picasso's daughter, Maya Widmaier Picasso.

Dora Maar au Chat by Pablo Picasso - is sometimes described as an unbecoming depiction of his mistress.

6. GUSTAV KLIMT: "Adele Bloch-bauer II ", 1912
$87.9 million
Christie's New York, November 2006. Buyer: unknown

Sold only a few months after Klimt's first version of Adele, this extremely appealing canvas was the star lot in a highly successful auction in which four works by Klimt -including this- totaled a spectacular $192 million.

Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912. Oil on canvas.

7. VINCENT VAN GOGH: "Portrait of Doctor Gachet", 1890
$82.5 million
Christie's New York, May 1990. Buyer: Ryoei Saito

This painting by the Dutch Impressionist master Vincent van Gogh suddenly became world-famous when Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito paid $82.5 million for it at auction in Christie's, New York during the “Japanese Art Boom” of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Saito was so attached to the painting that he wanted it to be cremated with him when he died. Saito died in 1996 ... but the painting was saved. The whereabouts of the painting are now unknown. Some sources places it in Europe, waiting for its return to the Art market.

Vincent van Gogh actually painted two versions of Dr Gachet's portrait. You can view the other version, with a slightly different color scheme, at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1st version), 1890, Oil on canvas
67 × 56 cm, 23.4 × 22.0 in

8. JASPER JOHNS: "False Start", 1959
$80 million
Private sale, Autumn 2006. Buyer: Unknown

This iconic work by Johns, sold by David Geffen, is the third highest price ever paid for work by a contemporary artist.

False Start, 1959, Oil on canvas

9. PIERRE AUGUSTE RENOIR: "Le moulin de la Galette", 1876
$78.1 million
Sotheby's New York, May 17th 1990. Buyer: Ryoei Saito

Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre was painted by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1876. This masterpiece is the little sister of the version now in the Orsay. It was bought by Ryoei Saito for $78.1 million at Sotheby's in 1990, and sold in 1997 to a "European private collector" for $50 million.

Sold in 1997 to a "European private collector" for $50 million.

10. PETER PAUL RUBENS: "Massacre of the innocents", 1611/12
$76.7 million (£49.5 million)
Sotheby's London, July 2002. Buyer: Kenneth Thompson

This painting by Peter Paul Rubens, painted in 1611, is the only painting in this list which was not painted in the 19th or 20th century. The flamboyant and dramatic work by Rubens could also fight for the title of "most unexpected success": Christie's had estimated its price at a mere £5 million. It was sold to Kenneth Thomson, 2nd Baron Thomson of Fleet for $76,700,000 at a 2002 Sotheby's auction

Massacre of the Innocents, 1611


Mark Rothko: "White center (yellow, pink...)",1889- $72.8 million (2007)
Mark Rothko's fabulous "White center (yellow, pink and lavender on rose)" -once in the collection of David Rockefeller, was sold at Sotheby's New York for more than $72 million, making it the most expensive contemporary art work ever sold at auction.

Andy Warhol: "Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car)", 1963 - $71.7 million (2007)
Sold two days after the work above in a record $384 million sale of contemporary art, it thrashed the previous record for a Warhol ($17 million).

Vincent van Gogh: "Portrait of the artiste sans barbe", 1889- $71.5 million (1998)
Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe ("Self-portrait without beard") is one of many self-portraits by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. He painted this one in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in September 1889. The painting is an oil painting on canvas (16" x 13").
This is an uncommon painting since his other self-portraits show him with a beard. The self-portrait became one of the most expensive paintings of all time when it was sold for $71.5 million in 1998 in New York, representing an extraordinary success -the auction house had estimated it at less than a half of its final price.

Titian: "Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos", 1533 - $70 million (2004)
A sum never confirmed, but also never denied, by its buyer, the Getty Museum. The magnificent painting was exhibited for many years in the Louvre Museum.

Thomas Eakins: "The Gross clinic", 1875 - $68 million (2006)
The painting, previously in the Thomas Jefferson University, was purchased in November 2006 by the National Gallery of Washington, setting a record for a 19th-century American painting.

Willem de Kooning: "Police Gazette ", 1955 - $63 million (2006)
Bought by Steven Cohen, one of the leading collectors in today’s art market.

Paul Cezanne: "Rideau, crouchon et compotier", 1893/94 - $60.5 million (1999)
This painting by Paul Cézanne, painted in ca. 1893-1894, sold for $60,500,000 at Sotheby's New York on May 10, 1999 to "The Whitneys". Whitney, born into one of America's wealthiest families, was a venture capitalist, publisher, Broadway show and Hollywood film producer, and philanthropist.

Vincent van Gogh: "Wheat field with cypresses", 1889 - $57 million (1993)
The price is really spectacular if we consider that it was paid in 1993, in the middle of a recession. The philanthropic Walter Annenberg lent the work to the Metropolitan Museum shortly afterwards.

Pablo Picasso: "Femme aux bras croisés", 1904 - $55 million (2000)
This work, painted in 1901, was a part of Picasso's famous Blue Period, a dark, sad time in the artist's life. The beautiful & various tones of blue are typical. The painting depicts a woman with her arms crossed staring at the endless nothing. Femme aux Bras Croisés was sold for $55,000,000 November 8, 2000, at Christie's Rockefeller in New York City.

Vincent van Gogh: "Irises", 1888 - $53.9 million (1991)
Vincent van Gogh painted this at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in 1889, only one year before his death. In 1987, it became the most expensive painting sold at that time. It was sold for $ 54,000,000 to Alan Bond and later resold to the Getty Museum.

Francis Bacon: "Study for Innocent X", 1962 - $52.7 million (2007)
Sold at the same auction in which Mark Rothko's "White center (yellow, pink and lavender on rose)" went for $72.8 million.

Pablo Picasso: "Les noces de Pierrette", 1904 - $51.9 million (1989)

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