(when adjusted for inflation)
How much would you be willing and able to pay for an original painting by one of the most famous artists in the world? Today the most respected art pieces, when they do come up for sale, are generally sold by auction. And as some recent auctions reveal, many times the bidding far exceeds the expected price. Here are some of the most noteworthy art auctions, as well as a few private sales, that have occurred in recent years. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, but rather a sampling of 10 of the most expensive painting sales.
10) Gustav Klimt - Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II
Painted in 1912, it features the wife of an industrialist named Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who was a supporter of Klimt’s career. His wife is actually the only model to appear in two of Klimt’s paintings (see number 3 on this list for the other one). There is an interesting story regarding both of these works. After Adele’s death, her husband was forced to leave Austria to escape from the Nazis, leaving his estate, including these Klimt paintings of his wife, behind. When he died, he left the paintings to his niece, Maria Altmann. Altmann actually went to court against the Austrian government to retain rightful ownership of these works. She was ultimately successful in this attempt. She sold this portrait at auction in 2006 through Christie’s, New York, for $87.9 million. When adjusted for inflation, this equals $89.1 million for the sale.
9) Vincent van Gogh - Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe
Completed in 1889, it was one of the artist’s many self-portraits. What makes this one unique, however, was the fact it shows him “sans barbe” or “without a beard.” This oil painting was sold by the heirs of Jacques Koerfer (who was a German collector and former chairman of BMW) through Christie’s, New York, in 1998 for $71.5 million. When adjusted for inflation, this equals $90.1 million. The painting was said to be painted by van Gogh for his mother’s 70th birthday gift shortly before he committed suicide. It is worth noting that the selling price was more than double what this piece was expected to fetch.
8) Pablo Picasso - Dora Maar au Chat
Painted in 1941 to capture the likelihood of his mistress, Dora Maar, who was seated on a chair with a cat perched on her shoulder. This particular portrait of her, which was one of many, was one of Picasso’s last paintings. This piece, which was owned by the Gidwitz family of Chicago, was sold by auction in 2006 through Sotheby’s, New York, for $95.2 million. This was double the pre-sale estimates. When adjusted for inflation, this equals $97 million.