10 Most Expensive Contemporary Art Pieces Ever Sold

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The contemporary art market has seen a significant rise in recent years, and with it, the prices of contemporary art pieces have soared to unimaginable heights. From stunning paintings and sculptures to cutting-edge installations, these works represent some of the most exciting and innovative art pieces being created today.

They showcase the exceptional talent of the artists but also reflect the ever-evolving tastes and preferences of art collectors and investors.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply curious about contemporary art, this list of the 10 most expensive modern art paintings will surely provide fascinating insights into the world of high-priced art.

10. Flag

Price: $110 million
Artist: Jasper Johns
Year Created: 1958
Dimensions: 107.3 cm. x 153.8 cm.

Flagphoto source: The Broad

American artist Jasper Johns created the painting “Flag” in 1958. The painting is an iconic representation of the American flag and is considered one of Johns’s most important and celebrated works. The painting is made with encaustic, a technique that involves heating pigments mixed with beeswax and applying them to a surface.

This technique gives the painting a unique texture and depth. The painting was purchased by Steven Cohen, an American hedge-fund manager and art collector. This painting is considered a masterpiece of American art, and its high price reflects its historical and cultural significance and the artist’s exceptional talent.

Did You Know?

This artwork was sold for $110 million in 2010, setting a new record for the artist and making it one of the most expensive contemporary art pieces ever sold.

9. Untitled

Price: $110.5 million
Artist: Jean-Michel Basquiat
Year Created: 1982
Dimensions: 183.2 cm. × 173 cm.

Untitledphoto source: Artnet News

Untitled” is a painting created by American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1982. The painting is an example of Basquiat’s signature style, characterized by bold, gestural brushstrokes and the use of text and symbols.

The painting features an African American figure with a crown on top of the head and a skull in the center and with a mix of words and symbols painted all around the canvas.

Basquiat’s work is highly sought after for its powerful social commentary and ability to capture the zeitgeist of the time it was created. The artwork was sold for $110.5 million in 2017, setting a new record for the artist and becoming one of the most expensive contemporary art pieces ever sold.

Did You Know?

The painting was purchased by Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, entrepreneur, and art collector.

8. Woman III

Price: $137.5 million
Artist: Willem de Kooning
Year Created: 1953
Dimensions: 123 cm. x 173 cm.

Woman IIIphoto source: Arthive

Woman III is a painting by Willem de Kooning done between 1951 and 1953 in which the central theme is a woman. It measured 68 by 48 1/2 inches (1.73 by 1.23 m) and was completed in 1953. In November 2006, the painting was sold by Geffen to billionaire Steven Cohen for $137.5 million.

It is the last painting in de Kooning’s “Women” series, still in private hands, and is considered one of the most important postwar paintings. The painting is characterized by de Kooning’s signature style, which includes gigantic, vacuous eyes, massive breasts, toothy smiles, and clawlike hands set against colorful layers of paint.

Did You Know?

The painting is a part of a series of paintings de Kooning made in the early 1950s that depict a woman as the central subject.

7. No. 5

Price: $140 million
Artist: Jackson Pollock
Year Created: 1948
Dimensions: 122 cm. x 244 cm.

No. 5photo source: Jackson Pollock

Created by the American painter Jackson Pollock, No. 5  was sold on 22 May 2006 for $140 million. The painting was created on a fibreboard measuring 8’ x 4’, and Pollock used liquid paints (synthetic resin paints).

It is a powerful drip of great dimensions (122 cm. x 244 cm.) and exemplifies his iconic action paintings and “drip technique” that he developed at the end of the 1940s.

Pollock has modified the painting since it was created, and Pollock offered to rework the painting after it was damaged. The reconstruction had not only retained but reinforced the metaphysical concept of the painting, and it has become what Alfonso A. Ossorio calls “a wonderful example of an artist having a second chance.”

6. Three Studies of Lucian Freud

Price: $142.4 million
Artist: Francis Bacon
Year Created: 1969
Dimensions: 198 cm. x 147.5 cm.

Three Studies of Lucian Freudphoto source: Aphelis

This 1969 oil-on-canvas triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud by the Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon depicts the artist Lucian Freud. It was sold in November 2013 for US$142.4 million, the highest price attained at auction for a work of art when not factoring in inflation.

The triptych is composed of three canvases, each 198 cm × 147.5 cm (78 in × 58 in), and together they form an abstract, distorted, isolated portrait of artist Lucian Freud. The painting was created at the Royal College of Art in London and was first exhibited in 1970.

Did You Know?

It was reassembled in the late 1980s and sold in 2013 for a record-breaking price.

5. Masterpiece

Price: $165 million
Artist: Roy Lichtenstein
Year Created: 1962
Dimensions: 137 cm. × 137 cm.

Masterpiecephoto source: Wikipedia

Roy Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece from 1962 went for a total of 165 million USD in a private sale in 2017. Agnes Gund sold the famous piece of art to Steve A. Cohen, and the proceeds from the sale were used to launch the Art for Justice Fund, which was used to finance criminal justice reform.

American Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein was born in 1923 and died in New York City in 1997. Along with artists like Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, he helped to establish the modern art movement. In the years before the sale, the in question piece of art was shown in his retrospectives worldwide.

Did You Know?

The painting features Ben-Day dots, a technique Lichtenstein popularized in comic books.

4. Les Femmes d’Alger

Price: $179.4 million
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Year Created: 1955
Dimensions: 114 cm. x 146.4 cm.

Les Femmes d’Algerphoto source: Wikipedia

Les Femmes d’Alger is a series of 15 paintings and numerous drawings by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The series, created in 1954–1955, was inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 painting The Women of Algiers in their Apartment. The entire series of Les Femmes d’Alger was bought by Victor and Sally Ganz from the Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris for $212,500 in June 1956 (equivalent to $2.1 million in 2021).

Many of the individual paintings in the series are now in prominent public and private collections. The painting sold for $179.4 million in May 2015 at Christie’s in New York, becoming the most expensive work ever sold at auction.

3. No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red)

Price: $186 million
Artist: Mark Rothko
Year Created: 1951
Dimensions: 219 cm. x 127 cm.

No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red)photo source: ArtCurious

No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) is a painting created by the American artist Mark Rothko in 1951. It is an abstract expressionist work characterized by large blocks of color that are layered and blended to create a sense of depth and movement. The painting features three primary colors: violet, green, and red, arranged in a horizontal format.

The painting was sold at auction for $186 million, making it one of the most expensive works of art ever sold. Mark Rothko is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and his work continues to be highly sought after by collectors and museums around the world.

Did You Know?

It is typical of Rothko’s approach as each of the three main areas of color has softened around the edges, with some background tones showing through.

2. Number 17A

Price: $200 million
Artist: Jackson Pollock
Year Created: 1948
Dimensions: 112 cm. × 86.5 cm.

Number 17Aphoto source: Pinterest

Number 17A is a painting created by the American artist Jackson Pollock in 1948. It is an abstract expressionist contemporary work, considered one of the most important works of art of the 20th century. The painting is characterized by its dynamic and complex composition, with dripped and splattered paint in various shades of brown and black, creating a sense of movement and energy.

The painting is one of a series of works that Pollock created using his signature technique of dripped and poured paint, which he called “drip paintings.” Number 17A was sold at auction for $200 million, making it one of the most expensive works of art ever sold.

1. Interchange

Price: $300 million
Artist: Willem de Kooning
Year Created: 1955
Dimensions: 200.7 cm. x 175.3 cm.

Interchangephoto source: Artnet News

The Interchange is a painting created by the Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning in 1955. With a tag price of $300 million, this abstract expressionist modern artwork is considered the most expensive ever sold. It is characterized by the artist’s unique blending of representation and abstraction.

The painting depicts a man’s face in the center of the canvas, but the features are abstracted, painted with broad strokes of bold colors. The background comprises a series of overlapping shapes rendered in shades of blue, grey, and white. The painting is considered one of de Kooning’s most iconic works and one of the greatest masterpieces of 20th-century art.

Did You Know?

It was sold by the David Geffen Foundation to Kenneth C. Griffin in September 2015, which ranked second on the list of most expensive paintings, only surpassed by Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, which was sold for $450.3 million in November 2017.


Head of Content at Rarest.org


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