Guess the Price of the 6 Most Expensive Paintings in the World. Now Double That

These are the 6 most expensive paintings in the world

This masterpieces sure come with a robust price tag. But what is a few millions for the pleasure to see these works hanging on your wall? At least that may be the thought process of the royal families that bought 4 of the most expensive paintings in the world. The other two paintings in the list were snatched by an art collector from the United States. Plus, these paintings are a good investment and can be resold at a later time for even more millions. Without further ado, here are the 6 most expensive paintings in the world.

1. Salvator Mundi. Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. $450 million.

The most expensive painting in the world is a portrait of Christ. Christ has long golden hair, wears a blue gown, and raises his right hand in a blessing.
The restored Salvator Mundi (Savior of the world).
Oil on walnut. 45.4 x 65.6 cm (25.8 x 19.2 in). (Photo: Getty images/Public domain)

Plenty of controversy has surrounded this sale. Leonardo da Vinci finished less than 20 paintings during his lifetime.

The Salvator was painted in c. 1500, probably for Louis XII, king of France. In 1625 it was in the collection of Charles I of England. And then, it disappeared from history, although many copies remained.

In 2005 an auction house of Louisiana, U.S., was selling a small painting on their website. Two art dealers thought it might have some value, and bought it for $1,175. The painting was quite damaged, and went through a lengthy restoration.

Under the microscope

Since then, specialists of institutions as reputable as the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York and the National Gallery of London have analyzed the work. The general consensus is that this Salvador Mundi does date to the 16th century, and that it comes from Leonardo’s workshop. But most experts believe it is the work of one of Leonardo’s pupils, probably Boltraffio or Luini. The master might have helped with some parts.

Who did most of the painting matters. A finished painting by one of his pupils goes for $600,000 or less, while a simple drawing by Leonardo’s hand can sell for $11 million. There are also concerns about the heavy restoration.

From celebrity to secrecy

The National Gallery was sure enough of its authenticity to exhibit it along other Leonardos in 2011. And two years later Russian magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev bought it for $127,5 million. In 2017, he sold it to the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi for $450 million.

The Salvator was supposed to go on display at the Louvre of Abu Dhabi last September, but the unveiling was postponed. The Louvre of Paris has also asked to loan the painting, but the owners have yet to respond. Some believe the secrecy around the painting means that the owner, probably Prince Mohammed bin Salman, doubts its authenticity –it would not be the first copy of the Salvator thought to be the original. Then again, maybe the buyer is just enjoying his masterpiece and does not want to part with it just yet.

2. Interchange by Willem de Kooning.
$300 million.

Abstract painting with geometric figures and lots of primary colors, plus light beige. Heavy brushwork.
Interchange. Oil on canvas. 200.7 x 175.3 cm (79.0 x 69.0 in). Currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The art world can rest assured of the authenticity of this piece. Dutch artist Willem de Kooning painted Interchange in 1955, and that same year he sold it to U.S. architect Edgar Kauffman Jr. for $3,000, give or take. When Kauffman died more than thirty years later, the painting was auctioned along with the rest of his state. Japanese firm Mountain Tortoise seized the opportunity and bought Interchange for $20.7 million. Soon, though, they sold it to U.S. producer David Geffen, who was building an impressive collection of modern art.

In 2015 the Geffen Foundation sold Interchange for $300 million to its current owner, hedge fund manager and philanthropist Kenneth Griffin. Griffin’s love for art is well known. His art collection is valued in $2.6 billion. And he serves in the board of trustees of several museums. Including the Art Institute of Chicago, to which Griffin has loaned the masterpiece so it can be on public display.

3. The Card Players by Paul Cezanne.
$250 million.

Two suited men with hats play cards in a bar.
Les joueurs de cartes (The card players). Oil on canvas. 97 x 130 cm
(38.1 x 51.1 in). Owned by Princess Sheikha Al Thani. (Photo: The Yorck Project/Public domain)

Cezanne actually did five versions of The Card Players in the 1890’s. Some have two players, others up to five. Many specialists consider that the series are the French painter’s best work. One of the paintings made its way to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the others ended up, respectively, in the Courtauld Gallery of London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, the Barnes Foundation of Philadelphia, and the private collection of George Embiricos.

Embiricos was a shipping magnate with an eye for high quality art. When he died in 2001, his family sold many of his paintings. The Card Players was sold in a private transaction so nobody knew for certain who had been the buyer. Nevertheless, insiders believed the Royal Family of Qatar had acquired it for 250 or 300 million dollars. They were right. The buyer was Princess Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani, who has been buying modern and contemporary masterpieces for Qatar’s new museums. (See also: Wealthiest female billionaires.)

4. When will you marry? by Paul Gauguin.
$210 million.

Outdoors. Two Tahitian women sit on the grass and look at the viewer.
Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When will you marry?). Oil on canvas.
Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When will you marry?). Oil on canvas.
101 x 77 cm (39.7 x 30.3 in). Owned by the Emir of Qatar. (Photo: Martin Buhler/Kunstmuseum Basel/Public domain)

Paul Gauguin may not have had success while he was alive, but his paintings have done rather well since then.

The French painter went to Tahiti for the first time in 1891, looking for a paradise to inspire his art. When he returned to Paris he exhibited his work, including this painting, in Durand Ruel’s gallery, in 1893. When will you marry? had a price tag of 1,500 francs, quite a sum at the time, and it did not sell.

Some years later the piece made its way to the collection of Rudolf Staechelin, a man that was friends with artists and that bought 20 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the years of the First World War.

An offer too good to resist

The Swiss kept the paintings in his family. After his death in 1946, his heirs lent them to the Kunstmuseum of Basel and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire of Geneve, where the paintings have been hanging all this time. However, a few years back, Ruedi Staechelin, Rudolph’s grandson, received an offer too good to resist: the Emir of Qatar was willing to pay $210 million for Gauguin’s When will you marry? The painting was sold to the Emir in 2014.

5. Number 17A by Jackson Pollock. $200 million.

Chaotic abstract painting with primary colors and white.
Number 17A. Owned by Kenneth Griffin.
Currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jackson Pollock was at the height of his career when he painted Number 17A. It was 1948, and the artist was going through his ‘dripping period,’ so-called because of the technique he used to create his art. At the time, the thirty-something-year-old was being called one of the greatest painters of the United States, and his works were in high demand.

Geffen and Griffin buy the painting

Number 17A ended up in David Geffen’s collection. In 2015 the Geffen Foundation sold the painting to Kenneth Griffin for $200 million dollars, making this Pollock the fifth most expensive painting in the world. Griffin lent it to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it is currently on public display, along with several of his Cezannes, and Interchange (number two on this list), which he bought from Geffen in the same transaction.

The hedge fund manager is known for his support of the arts: he has donated $40 million to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), $19 million to the Art Institute of Chicago, $20 million to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, and $10 million to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago.

6. Water Serpents II by Gustav Klimt.
$183.8 million.

Two naked women lay on the foreground. Their long golden hair envelops them sensually.
Wasserschlangen II (Water Serpents II). 80 x 145 cm (31.5 x 57 in). Owned by Princess Sheikha Al Thani. (Photo: Wikimedia/Public domain)

Like Salvator Mundi, Water Serpents II has had her fair share of controversies. While everyone is certain that it is an authentic work by Gustav Klimt, it is the matter of ownership that has been problematic. Klimt painted the Serpents between 1903 and 1907. And it went to the art collection of Judy Steiner, who was a patron of the Austrian master and had before, in 1898, commissioned him to do a portrait of her daughter Trude.

Controversy

When the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, Judy, who was Jewish, fled the country and sought asylum in Portugal. Her art collection was seized by the Nazis, who were confiscating all the Klimts they could find. The painting ended up in the hands of Nazi propagandist and filmmaker Gustav Ucicky. And when he died in 1961, his collection went to his widow, Ursula.

In 1998, 44 nations reunited to deal with the issue of Nazi looted art and how to restitute it. They appointed a commission, which made a list of the stolen art. Water Serpents II was on it along with several other pieces owned by Ursula. Her collection came under fire.

Resolution

In 2013 an agreement was reached about one of the paintings, the Serpents. Jointly, Ursula and the heirs of Judy Steiner sold the painting to Princess Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani of Qatar for $183.8 million. A hefty sum that earns the Serpents the title of sixth most expensive painting in the world.

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