When Van Gogh’s ‘Vase with 15 sunflowers’ was auctioned for $77.3m at Christie’s London in 1987, a new age of mega art prices began. In the ensuing 20 years the record for the World’s most valuable work of art was again doubled. The highest price fetched has not increased between 2006 and 2011 however, reflecting global economic woes and a cooling art market.
Here is a short list of the three most expensive paintings ever sold and a quick profile of the buyers.
3). Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt
Painted in Vienna 1907, this remarkable work was confiscated by the Nazis when it’s Jewish owner’s fled Austria in WW2. The work was finally returned to it’s rightful owners after a protracted court case in 2006. It was then sold for $135m to Ronald Lauder son of cosmetics company founder Estée Lauder. Lauder, who is worth an estimated $3 billion was once US ambassador to Austria and is a staunch supporter of Benyamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right. His business interests include property and media including a stake in Israeli television.
2). Woman III by Willem de Kooning
Part of a series created from 1951-53, this work depicting a nude female figure appears to have been executed in blind frenzy. For much of its life the painting was housed in the Museum of Contemporary art in Tehran, however, after the Iranian revolution it was deemed unfit for public consumption.
In 2006 the work was bought for $137.5m by Steven Cohen. Cohen is founder of SAC Capital partners, an investment company managing $14 billion in equity, and America’s 35th wealthiest person. Other works in his collection include ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ by Damien Hirst. The controversial piece features a shark preserved in formaldehyde, however the shark itself has had to be replaced because it has rotted.
1). No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock
Sometimes jokingly known as ‘Jack the Dripper’ Pollock was one of the most controversial figures of modern art. A legendary recluse and insatiable drinker, Pollock’s technique was a reflection of his impulsive nature. No. 5 1948 was created in a thick tangle of yellow and brown oils. The work was allegedly purchased in 2006 by David Martinez a partner of Fintech advisory and specialist in corporate debt. Martinez, originally from Monterrey in Mexico, denied owning the painting however. Martinez is nonetheless a keen art collector and paid the highest price ever for a New York apartment in 2004 at $54.7m. No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock was allegedly sold for almost 3 times that amount; a cool $140m.