11 Most Expensive Pieces of Artwork Ever Sold

When most of us think about purchasing a work of art, we think about either buying a poster online, or at the very most walking over to a local gallery or a coffee shop displaying work, and purchasing whatever strikes our fancy. The pieces of art on this list come from a different world entirely — one populated by white gloved employees carefully displaying priceless works of art to be bid on by dealers on behalf of billionaires hidden in the shadows.

These auctions are a spectacular display of wealth, but also illustrate the lengths some collectors will go to ensure these works of art remain available for the public to enjoy. Here’s a list of some of the most expensive works of art ever sold.

Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt – $135 million

A stunning portrait of heiress Adele Bloch-Bauer done by Gustav Klimt was recently purchased on behalf of the Neue Gallerie in New York for a staggering $135 million. The acquisition was made by Ronald Lauder, the son of Joseph and Estée Lauder, founders of the Estee Lauder cosmetic company.

The painting’s ownership was debatable for many years, as it was part of a restitution case between the Austrian government and the estate of the Bloch-Bauer family. The family argued that the portrait was seized by Nazi soldiers, and rightfully belonged to them. In 2006, the painting was awarded to Maria Altmann, the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer, who then sold the work to Mr. Lauder.

Public Domain

Public Domain

Three Studies of Lucien Freud by Francis Bacon – $142.4 million

A triptych of paintings of Lucien Freud, done by his friend and fellow artist Francis Bacon, was originally expected to fetch a remarkable price of around $85 million when it first went to auction in 2013. What happened next shocked the art world as bidding frantically climbed higher, until it finally sold for $142.4 million.

Although the three panels were separated for more than 15 years, they were finally reunited when a Roman collector bought all three and insisted that they be sold together from then on. The paintings are remarkable because they are thought to be one of two triptychs done by Bacon of Freud- the other is currently missing.

La Reve by Pablo Picasso – $155 million

A painting of Picasso’s mistress entitled La Reve was recently sold by collector Steve Wynn to fellow collector Steven A. Cohen for a cool $155 million. Cohen had been interested in the painting for years, but had to put his interest on the backburner while Wynn had the piece repaired after accidentally putting his elbow through it. To Cohen’s relief, the painting was expertly restored, and remains one of the most well-known of Picasso’s entire body of work.

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