I am not going to pretend I have a great understanding of the art world. I mean, I can tell you when I look at a painting if I think it looks nice or not, but I’m probably not going to talk your ear off about the latest abstract piece. I also may be able to stay within the lines when I color, but I’m probably not going to produce any type of artistic creation that leaves you breathless. This is, perhaps, why the worth of the paintings you’re about to come across make absolutely no sense to some. I am sure they are representative of a particular style of painting or represent some powerful themes but, to me, they mostly represent an incredible waste of money.
Paintings have the advantage of exclusivity, as there is only one original, but is that really worth hundreds of millions of dollars? Apparently, it is!
Here are 10 paintings that not only sold for an astonishing amount of money but also, many of them are pieces of art that you are going to swear you’d be able to have created at home. Some of the paintings may be from names you recognize, but that doesn’t excuse them from scrutiny.
10. Mark Rothko’s No 1 (Royal Red And Blue)
Now, I am not saying that I could paint this painting… but I could totally paint this painting.
This is an abstract expressionist painting done by Mark Rothko in 1964. It may not look like much (because it’s three colors on a canvas) but it was enough to attract a bid of an astounding $75.1 million at an auction in November, 2012.
As you may guess from the number, this was one of several pieces that were sold from Rothko’s exhibit held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1954.
9. Jasper Johns’ False Start
When Jasper’s painting was purchased in 2006, it sold for an astounding $80 million. At the time, this made it the most expensive painting ever sold by a living artist. Perhaps he could take part of that money, go back home and create another painting that looks like some overly aggressive finger painting.
Now, to be fair, the painting also has different words written in bright colors so, I mean, that’s worth a few million per word, right?
The painting had previously been sold for $17 million in 1988, but the value clearly only increased with time.
8. Willem de Kooning’s Woman III
This painting is awful. I get that it’s an abstract expressionist painting, but it is so hideous to look at. You honestly couldn’t convince me to take it if I was walking down the street and saw that laying on the grass. Clearly that means I have no taste because it sold for a ridiculous $137.5 million in 2006. This made it the 4th most expensive painting ever sold. It was created by painter Williem de Kooning in 1953. The buyer, David Geffen, is worth $6.5 billion, so nobody is going to step in and tell him how to spend his money… but are you kidding me?
7. Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players
When you try to consider who on earth would spend $250 million on this painting, your mind probably doesn’t jump to a country. But, in 2012, Qatar decided to purchase the piece for an astonishing $250 million. The idea was that it would build the country’s art reputation.
The painting was created by Paul Cézanne and was one of five of his works. The other four were residing in established art institutions at the time of Qatar buying this painting.
6. Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Dance At Le Moulin De La Galette
I understand that this is just a particular style of art so, while the faces may just look like blurry messes, that is the appeal to some people.
The painting was completed by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1876, which definitely helped ramp up the price. It was purchased in 1990 by a rich Japanese businessman, Ryoei Saito, who purchased it for just over $78 million.
The piece is also praised for its ability to depict everyday life at the Moulin de la Galette district. While it’s fun to tease, there is no doubt that it is considered to be one of the biggest masterpieces of the Impressionism movement.
5. Vincent Van Gogh’s Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers
If you are going to spend $39.7 million (in 1987) on a painting, you better make sure you’re getting an original. After Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers was purchased, there was controversy surrounding its authenticity, as some believed it an Emile Schuffenecker forgery.
The painting was done by Van Gogh so, you know, it needs to be costly. That doesn’t change the fact that the painting is pretty ugly though. It is the second in a series, the first of which featured the sunflowers lying on the ground. The paintings were done to try and impress Paul Gauguin, a friend and influential member of society.
The painting may have been for Paul, but it currently resides at Seiji Togo Yasuda Memorial Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.
4. Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi
I’m not going to lie, if you told me that Leonardo da Vinci had a painting that was sold, I’d know it was costly. That doesn’t mean the painting is going to be any good though.
Salvator Mundi was thought to be lost, but it was rediscovered and restored in 2011. The image shows Christ but honestly, he looks like he may have been spending some time with the burning bush. I can only imagine that maybe the face was one of the more damaged parts of the painting that needed to be restored. Despite this, it still managed to sell in 2013 for $127.5 million.
3. Jackson Pollock’s No.5
When people think about paintings that their children could possibly do, Jackson Pollock’s name comes to mind. The painting was created on fibreboard and features grey, brown, white and yellow paint drizzled in such a fashion that it caused many people to compare the piece’s look to that of a dense bird’s nest. The painting was originally sold for $1,500 but was horribly damaged during transportation, forcing Pollock to create a second one for the artist. Pollock believed that nobody knew how to look at his paintings, so the buyer probably won’t notice the difference.
The buyer did realize the difference, but was ecstatic, calling it a wonderful example of an artist having a second chance. The painting is supposed to reinforce a metaphysical concept of the painting that is evident through its reconstruction.
Yeah, whatever that means.
One thing that will never make sense to me is how it allegedly sold in 2005 for $140 million!
2. Willem de Kooning’s Interchanged
What is this?
It literally just looks like a few different shapes and sizes that are blotted onto a canvas. Is that a yellow piece of cheese in the corner? It kind of looks like Lisa Simpson without eyes…
There have been a lot of times when I have thought that I really don’t understand art, but none more than this moment when I tell you that this painting sold in 2015 for $300 million. The painting is apparently a “seminal masterpiece of abstract expressionism” and is definitely worth being valued at $300 million.
1. Barnett Newman’s Onement VI
Now, let’s get one thing straight, that is an absolutely gorgeous shade of blue. Really, top notch call on the blue paint, Barnett Newman.
Newman was an abstract artist from New York, whose painting sold for $43.8 million in 2013. Why? I don’t know. It’s a blue canvas with a white line down the center of it. I guess that makes it worth more than $40 million somehow. Maybe the buyer just really fell in love with the blue too?
This was obviously not the most expensive painting on the list but I bet if you’re bored tonight, you can check out your line drawing skills and make a cool $40 million, right?