7 of Planet Earth’s Most Hideously Expensive Works of Art

Despite the frosty climate of the recession, the burgeoning art world is one that remains for the most part untouched by the financial downturn. It is considered that when exquisite pieces of art are up for grabs, buyers will still flock like seagulls ready to acclaim the biggest prize of all, their most coveted painting in its original form. Read on to discover just how much people are willing to pay for the world’s most expensive art.

1. The Scream by Edward Munch – 1895

Sold in 2012 for $120 million

The Scream
For a surprisingly simple oil and pastel on cardboard painting, the imagery of The Scream by Edward Munch is legendary for its haunting, enrapturing ambience and its ability to awaken the spectator’s imagination. Four versions were produced by the artist in the 1890s, the fourth version was sold in May 2012 for an incredible $120 million by Sotherbys, New York.

It is the highest amount ever paid for a painting at auction. The painting has been the target for high profile thieves and was successfully stolen from The Munch museum in 2004 along with The Madonna. Thankfully they were both recovered two years later. There has been many suggestions as to the inspiration behind the striking painting, Munch describes a ‘scream passing through nature’ turning the clouds blood red.

It was a reawakening of an actual event, which he interpreted in his signature technique. The painting has been described as capturing the essence of human angst and ‘depersonalisation disorder,’ which is associated with being uneasy with one’s self and environment. The painting is certainly a mystifying piece of art, loved for its ambiguity and individual meaning to the spectator.

2. The Card Players by Paul Cezanne – 1890

Sold in 2011 for $250-$300 million

The Card Players width=
The Card Players is a series of paintings which depict a relaxed, laissez-faire existence where men, immersed in their game of cards, sit and drink wine undisturbed and tranquil. Its no-drama approach has won the hearts of many an art lover. The studiousness and concentration of the men in his paintings has also caused a critic to link it to Cezanne’s own absorption in his art. The series of paintings are considered ‘human still life,’ a single, still moment captured.

In February 2012, Vanity Fair drew speculations about a version of the painting being sold for an incredible $250-$300 million by the royal family of Qatar – making it the most expensive piece of art ever bought by a private collector.

3. Woman III by Willem De Kooning- 1953

Sold in 2006 for $137.5 million

Woman III
When the Dutch American painter released the Women series in 1953, he unknowingly caused quite a stir. At a time when most abstract paintings were still life, Kooning chose to produce figurative abstract paintings, which were met with some degree of shock due to their blatant imagery of nudity and strategically placed high-key colours, paired with snarling smiles and feminine extremities.

The artist was known to poignantly profess of his work. Despite critic’s perhaps initial sensation, Woman III was snapped up by an avid Kooning collector in 2006 for a staggering $137.5 million and remains one of the most expensive pieces of art ever created.

4. Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I by Gustav Klimt- 1912

Sold in 2006 for $135 million

Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I
The lady Klimt famously captured is Adele Bloch Bauer, the wife of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who was a wealthy industrialist and supported Klimt’s work generously. She is the only model Klimt decided to paint twice. Famously, the painting was seized by the Nazi’s during WWII and was not retrieved until a huge court battle was unfolded, which secured their return to the muse’s neice Maria Altmann in January 2006.

Christie’s of London opened an auction for the striking piece not much later in November 2006, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I sold privately for a cool $135 million.

5. Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picasso – 1932

Sold in 2010 for $95 million

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust
Famously dedicated to his mistress and muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, this stunning five feet painting features, in Picasso’s classic cubist style, vibrant lilacs and vivid blues and displays a beautiful accentuation of a woman’s figure, lying in a twisted position at the forefront of the painting.

On May 4, 2010 the painting was sold at auction and fetched a staggering $95 million. Eight bidders were vying for the painting but it eventually fell into the hands of a mysterious private collector. Picasso’s ability to create love and passion on this particular canvas is highly regarded as his greatest achievements of the interwar period.

His love affair with Walter began at a Paris train station where he saw her, was bewitched by her beauty and soon after accosted her, saying, “I am Picasso, you and I will do great things together.” And if this remarkable and evocative painting is anything to go by, they certainly did.

6. Triptych by Francis Bacon – 1976

Sold in 2008 for $86.2 million

The Irish artist, Francis Bacon, may very well give some credence to the label ‘haunted genius.’ Yet it appears his unruly escapades of drinking and gambling did not deter him on the road to create his iconic 1976 paneled painting, Triptych.

Once appraised as ‘that man who paints those horrible paintings’ by Margaret Thatcher, Bacon’s work has gone on to be much admired and loved for its ability to fascinate the spectator with bold and raw imagery. Triptych in particular features disfigured faces, blood and gore and the remnants of a human body being feasted upon by birds of prey.

Cuttingly but reassuringly true to his renowned preoccupation of death, suffering and the inward struggle, Triptych was sold for an incredible $86.2 million in 2008 at Sotherby’s, New York.

7. Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet– 1919

Sold in 2008 for $80.4 million

Water Lily Pond
French artist Monet created a series of Water Lily paintings during the early 1900s. The serenity of the pieces and the artistic mastery executed, especially in terms of capturing light, is striking when we note that at the time the artist was suffering from the depression of losing his beloved wife and contending with the effects of WWI.

It is believed Monet would recreate the same water landscape scenes over and over so that the only thing that changed was the slight angle of light. The artist, firmly rooted in the Impressionist movement, is true to his style – creating the perception of depth and using texture to signify his masterpiece.

The beautiful painting was sold in 2008 to an unknown bidder for a whopping $80.4 million by Christie’s Auction House in London.

This post was contributed by Annabelle Morrison. Annabelle is a mother of a beautiful daughter, and a novelist and freelance writer. Passionate about helping others to achieve a successful financial life, she empowers people financially by writing across a wide range of topics.

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