Ever since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by paintings. Be it a portrait, a landscape or an abstract. The vivid use of colors always left me enchanted. No wonder why people are ready to pay such handsome prices to have them. Many would know Leonardo da Vinci’s Monalisa, Edvard Munch’s The Scream or Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night. But, these paintings are not on the list of the top 5 most expensive paintings ever sold.
So let’s get familiar with the Top 5 most expensive paintings ever sold and why they are so expensive.
5. Jackson Pollock’s NUMBER 17A (1948)
“The painting has a life of it’s own. I try to let it come through” -Jackson Pollock
Known for his unique drip painting style, the infamous, Jackson Pollock’s (1912-1956), oil on fibreboard painting was sold to Kenneth Griffin by the David Geffen Foundation in 2015 for $200 million.
Pollock is known for being the leading force behind the abstract expressionist movement. He redefined painting with his radical abstract style.
Number 17A was also featured in the article on Jackson Pollock in the August 8, 1949 issue of the Life Magazine.
4. Paul Gauguin’s NAFEA FAA IPOIPO (1892)
“Art is either revolution or plagiarism” -Paul Gauguin
The Tahitian phrase, “nafea faa ipoipo” means “when will you marry”. Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) painted this in 1892 when he traveled to Tahiti for creating “primitive” art. During this period, primitivism movement was spreading across Europe.
The French post-impressionist artist’s, oil on canvas painting was sold in a private auction to Sheika Al-Mayassa bin Hanad Al-Thani in 2015 for $210 million.
In the painting, two women can be seen sitting on the ground. The woman in the front is seen wearing a traditional Tahitian dress. The flower tucked behind her ear depicts that she is looking for a husband. While the woman behind is seen in modern attire.
3. Paul Cézanne’s THE CARD PLAYERS (1892-1893)
“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not an art” -Paul Cézanne
The Card Players is actually one of the paintings from the set created by the French post-impressionist painter: Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). One of the Qatar royal families bought this painting from a private collection. The estimated price lies between $250 million to $300 million.
Cézanne, who paved the way for cubism and abstract painting, painted these masterpieces in his ancestral home. The Card Players was influenced by the local men who worked at his ancestral farm. These set of paintings depict psychological intensity and stillness of time.
2. Willem de Kooning’s INTERCHANGE (1955)
“The artist fills the space with an attitude. The attitude never comes from himself alone” -Willem de Kooning
Created in 1955, Willem de Kooning’s (1904-1997) Interchange, an oil on canvas painting was the most expensive painting ever sold. Later, in 2017 it was knocked off from the top spot. But it still remains one of the most expensive abstract painting to be ever sold. It was sold to Kenneth Griffin by the David Geffen Foundation for $300 million.
Kooning is one of the most celebrated abstract expressionist artist along with Jackson Pollock.
What makes Interchange special is that Kooning who was then known for his aggressive figurative paintings went through a transition during the 1950s. Interchange is one of his earliest works during this transition period. Later,he turned to abstract landscape paintings under the influence of Franz Kline.
And the top spot is occupied by…
1. Leonardo da Vinci’s SALVATOR MUNDI (1950)
“Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art” -Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) Salvator Mundi became the most expensive painting ever sold by fetching $450.3 million in November 2017. This painting was sold at an auction held by Christi’s in London. They sold it to Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Farhan.
The journey of this painting has been extraordinary. For a long time, it was thought to be lost. Later, this da Vinci painting became a media sensation when it was rediscovered and restored in 2011.
Da Vinci probably painted Salvator Mundi for King Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany. Since then it has been moved from hands to hands and was thought to be lost as it was veiled by over-painting.
Leonardo paints Christ as depicted in Gospel of John 4:14: ‘And we have seen and testified that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the World’, hence,’Salvator Mundi’ in Latin. He is portrayed in renaissance robes, holding a crystal orb in the left hand while offering benediction in the right.
Once Thomas Merton said;”art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”. Each painting is unique and has a story of its own.
It’s in the eyes of the beholder what they see, how much they feel connected to it and how much they can let themselves be lost.