Art for Millionaires: The World’s Most Expensive Paintings

Much like most people my age, my introduction to the art world came in three forms: Bob Ross, Art Attack, and Mr. Rogers. Sure, they may not be ‘high’ art like the Renaissance masters, but it’s what instilled a love for art in me as a child, and it’s what gave me my sense of purpose when I entered art school.

Growing up, I never thought of making money out of my art, even when I found out that a single Bob Ross painting price can range between $1,000 to a whopping $10,000!

Well, at least, it was whopping when I first started out: over time, the idea of a single piece of artwork going for a hundreds of thousands of dollars was unfathomable to me. So imagine my surprise when I was finally introduced to the ‘art world’ and found paintings that weren’t just hundreds of thousands in dollars in value, but millions.

Here are some of the world’s most expensive paintings:


Jean-Michel Basquiat

Painting Price: 0.5 Million

Who knew graffiti art can be worth so much? Painted by the renowned NYC graffiti master Jean-Michel Basquiat, his Untitled painting sold for $110.5 million back in 2017, making it the most expensive piece of art created after 1980. It was purchased by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa for his personal collection.

Untitled and its selling price are a point of contestation among artists and critics: is it really worth that much, or was Basquiat just marketed so well that it justified a $100 million price tag?

Reclining Nude With Blue Cushion

Amedeo Modigliani

Painting Price: 8 Million

One of the hallmarks of the Expressionism school of art, Modigliani’s 1917 piece Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion is considered by most critics as the pinnacle of his nude portrait series. Amedeo Modigliani is known for his expressive brushstrokes, but also his eccentric personality: the artist was notorious for trading in his valuable paintings for bottles of alcohol and/or drugs.

Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion was purchased in 2012 by Russian billionaire Dmitry Ryboloblevn as part of his personal collection.

The Scream

Edvard Munch

Painting Price: 9.9 Million

Easily one of the most iconic and most recognizable paintings in the modern world, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s The Scream is actually one of six versions, with the other paintings housed in different art galleries in the world. The version that we all know, however, is housed in the Norwegian National Gallery in Oslo, while a later pastel on cardboard version was bought by billionaire financier Leon Black in 2012 for $119.9 million, a record sale for any auction house, and one that has yet to be beaten.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Gustav Klimt

Painting Price: 5 Million

Notable for its mix of naturalism and ornamental decoration, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a portrait of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer’s wife. The Bloch-Bauer’s were a wealthy Jewish couple in 1907, and the painting itself is notorious for being one of the most valuable paintings stolen by the Nazis in the Second World War, where it was hung in the Galerie Belvedere until it was recovered by the Bloch-Bauer estate.

It was sold for a then-record of $135 million by Russian billionaire Ronald Lauder in 2006, and is currently on display in the Neue Galerie in New York.

Woman III

Willem de Kooning

Painting Price: 7.5 Million

One of six in a series of abstract expressionist paintings by Dutch artist Willem de Kooning, Woman III broke Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer‘s sale record in 2006 when it was sold to Steven A. Cohen at $137.5 million.

Prior to becoming part of Cohen’s personal collection, it was initially displayed in Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art, but later religious leaders deemed it too offensive, and was taken down and sold David Geffen, before finally landing in the hands of Steven Cohen.

No. 5, 1948

Jackson Pollock

Painting Price: 0 Million

Regarded as the pinnacle of the American Avant-garde movement, the average price of a Jackson Pollock painting can range from $2 million all the way up to No.5’s whopping $140 million. For some critics, however, the cost of an original Jackson Pollock painting is immeasurable, thanks to the artist’s profound impact on the American art world and the vibrancy of his paintings.

No.5, 1948 is notable for its strange and quirky history: after being damaged in artist Alessandro Osorio’s house (the artist bought it for a mere $1,500), Pollock himself offered to repair it, but instead, repainted the whole thing from scratch. It is currently on display in the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Is Art For Millionaires?

Don’t feel bad if your gouache on canvas painting doesn’t rake in a million dollars in your first gallery showing. Remember: a lot of these multi-million dollar paintings only receive that hefty price tag after the artist passes away, so there’s that. But also, art is so subjective that a price tag alone shouldn’t tell you how much it’s worth.

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