Two months ago, a damaged & restored painting Salvator Mundi, allegedly from the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci, broke the price records ever held by any painting at $450m. This intrigued me to find out what are the world’s most expensive paintings ever auctioned.
Top 50 Paintings by Hammer Price
From Wikipedia, I obtained a list of paintings together with the artist, when they were created, when they were last sold, where they were auctioned, and their auction price adjusted for inflation to 2016 price level.
It shows few paintings ever reached half of that price point, with de Kooning and Cezanne the other two exceptions.
We can also see old historical paintings do not necessarily cost more.
Artists with Highest-Grossing Artworks
Next, by considering number of works among the top 50, we can see Picasso, van Gogh and Andy Warhol are the most sought-after on the market among the grand masters. Cézanne and de Kooning, on the other hand, produced some highly-priced work.
The number of top-grossing works sold depends not only on how prolific the artist is, but also how many pieces of work survived the test of time. Da Vinci is said to have very limited pieces of work remaining till today, though those survived are among the most renowned.
The Appetite for Fine Arts in the Middle East
If constructing a second Louvre isn’t enough signal, the $450m purchase of a Da Vinci by Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism certainly showed some appetite for expensive artworks. Among different buyers of the top 50 paintings, state of Qatar also appeared multiple times as the buyer, purchasing works of Cézanne, Gauguin and Andy Warhol.