5 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold


In early May, Edvard Munch's the Scream sold for an estimated US$120 million at auction. This qualified it as the most expensive painting ever sold. Despite tepid global economic markets over the past few years, the market for rare and exclusive art continues to be quite active. Here are some details on the most expensive paintings ever sold.

The Scream

Estimates were for the Scream to go for as high as US$200 million, but the official sale price of $119,922,500 still easily qualified it for the highest ever. The auction took place in New York and was carried out by prestigious auction house Sotheby's. Edvard Munch painted the artwork in 1895 and it has since become one of the most widely recognized and reproduced paintings in history. The New York Times put its popularity nearly as high as Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, which is considered the most popular painting in the world. Four versions of the Scream exist, and the one that sold was said to be the last available in private hands. The other three are available for viewing in Norwegian museums. The winning bidder chose to remain anonymous and bid over the phone. The auction took only 12 minutes. The seller was a Norwegian businessman whose father knew Munch personally.

Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves And Bust

This Pablo Picasso painting was the previous record holder for most-expensive painting, and was sold May 2010 in New York to an anonymous purchaser. The winning bidder paid US$106,482,500 and was speculated to have been a wealthy Russian business magnate. Picasso created the painting in 1932 and is said to have completed it in a single day while at the height of his career. It is reportedly a painting of one of his mistresses who also served as his muse. The seller was a wealthy family in Los Angeles that purchased it in 1952 for an estimated $17,000 from an art dealer who bought it directly from Picasso in 1936. Overall, it works out to quite a nice annual return over the past 50 years.

Boy With A Pipe

Pablo Picasso also holds the record for the third most expensive painting. Boy with a Pipe was sold in May 2004 in New York. The credit crisis in between the sale of this painting and Nude, Green Leaves and Bust may have cooled the art market, but it looks to have come back strongly, as evidenced by the recent sale of The Scream. Boy with a Pipe was painted in 1905 when Picasso was only 24. It went for US$104.1 million and held the record for about six years.

Dora Maar Au Chat

Another Pablo Picasso painting, Dora Maar Au Chat was sold for US$95.2 million in May 2006 to qualify as the fourth most expensive painting ever to be sold. Picasso painted it in 1941 and it went to an anonymous purchaser. The painting had been on display for some time in Chicago before being purchased at Christie's auction house six years ago.

Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer II

This painting by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt was sold in November 2006 for US$87.9 million. It was painted in 1907. His most famous work is The Kiss, which was painted a year later in 1908 and is on display in Vienna.


Prior to the sale of Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust painting, the previous record for art sold at auction was held by the sculpture Walking Man I by Alberto Giacometti. The sale price was US$104.3 million. These days, $100 million for an extremely rare piece of art is becoming the norm. The next record will have to surpass The Scream's $120 million, and someday a piece will surpass the $200 million threshold.
Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    Luxury Cars with the Best Resale Value

    Autos rarely appreciate in value. But if you want a set of wheels that'll least hold its value over time, these cars can go the distance.
  2. Stock Analysis

    How Expensive Is Whole Foods, Really?

    Learn about Whole Foods Market, Inc., and discover how Whole Foods pricing actually compares to that of other grocery store operations.
  3. Budgeting

    The Hard Way We Pay For Convenience

    Convenience is a luxury. However, any cost-conscious individual should be aware of these ridiculous ways we pay for convenience and how to avoid them.
  4. Personal Finance

    Choosing An In-Home Safe: Features To Look For

    What to look for in a box to protect your irreplaceable belongings.
  5. Personal Finance

    3 Castles That Cost Less Than a NYC Apartment

    Did you know you can rent an entire château, and that it might cost less than your New York pad?
  6. Personal Finance

    5 (Mostly) Costly Exotic Pets You Can Legally Own

    Exotic pets can be fascinating to look at, but most are expensive to acquire and maintain. And avoid being bitten, especially if you get a scorpion.
  7. Personal Finance

    What to Collect: Apple Watch vs. Luxury Watches

    The "iWatch" is a new player in the luxury watch world. But will it stand the test of time? Some points for collectors to ponder.
  8. Budgeting

    5 Ways to Date on a Budget

    Dating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
  9. Personal Finance

    Your Heirloom Jewelry: How Much Is It Worth?

    You grandma's diamonds are now yours. Whether you plan to keep them or not, you first need an honest appraisal. Here's how to get one.
  10. Personal Finance

    The Best Luxury Men's Watches

    Time might be on your side – and a high-end watch might be a good investment – if you keep these buying tips in mind.

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Purchasing Power

    The value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing ...
  2. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  3. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  4. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  5. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  6. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!