World’s Most Expensive Paintings


While paintings of yore were classics, “modern paintings” reduce Art to a mockery, says V S Ravi.

One can appreciate great poetry, because it deals with the universal  themes that govern human existence and which will remain so till the end of time. Great as the achievements of Science have been, Shakespeare, Milton, Homer, Dante, and Kalidasa will never lose their hold on what is perennial in man- emotions like, love, gratitude, affection, ambition, generosity, revenge and hatred. Poets like those named above are immortal, because of their everlasting soul-stirring lines, which elevate human life above the level of a farce

One can also appreciate the appeal of great music, the symphonies of Beethoven, or the songs of Thyagaraja, for similar reasons. Even Shakespeare makes Lorenzo say in” The Merchant of Venice” 

“The man that hath no music in himself, 

Nor is moved with concord of sweet sounds,

Is fit for treasons stratagems and spoils. 

The motions of his spirit are dull as night,

And his affections dark as Erebus.

Let no such man be trusted” 

Thus paying the ultimate tribute, to the importance of melody as a soothing balm to the troubled human mind 

Paintings, though supposed to deal with the same themes, cannot capture human emotions the way Poetry or Music does.  However, the appeal of paintings lies only in the subjective assessment of the viewer. This is true even of the greatest paintings, like “The Night watch” of Rembrandt, DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa” and “Last Supper” and Botticelli’s” Birth of Venus”(not shown here) . 

However, when you come to modern art, the paintings lack whatever little appeal the masterpieces of the great Italian, French, Dutch, and Spanish painters have. On the other hand the so called “modern paintings” reduce Art to a mockery.

Not surprisingly only eccentric millionaires generally buy them as status symbols and also to create an impression that they are connoisseurs of complex and exquisite paintings which convey some profound meaning that , only they can understand . How else can you explain the colossal sums of money paid to acquire these paintings which are in most cases, just horizontal splashes of three different colours on a canvas (e.g Mark Rothko) or elongated and ugly  human faces (Mogdialini), the harsh geometrical forms of cubism (Picasso) and the extensive symbolism of surrealist art (e.g Salvador Dali), to name a few.

While all the extraordinarily expensive paintings shown below, mostly fall in the above category, Mark Rothko’s “Violet, Green Red” which was sold for $186 Million, Mark Rothko’s “Yellow, pink, and Lavender” ($ 72.8 Million), Jackson Pollock’s “ No 5, 1948” ($ 140 Million), Edward Munich’s “The scream” ($119.9 Million), Andy Warhol’s “Green car crash” ($ 71.7 Million) and Kazimir Malevich’s “Suprematist composition” (sold for $60 Million),  are in a class of their own. The mind boggles at the prices for which these so-called “modern paintings” were sold. No art critic can explain why Mark Rothko’s two hideous  paintings which are similar, being essentially ugly splashes of three different colours were sold for two different prices, the first one for $ 186 Million, and another $ 72.8 Million. These two grotesque paintings take not only the cake but the entire bakery.

It is for this reason that I differ from the views of even John Keats whom however I admire. I am unable to comprehend how and why he wrote:

“Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard sweeter”.

Those” unheard” melodies must appeal only to eccentric millionaires who want to throw their money around. Because they are sought out by eccentric millionaires, the world’s most expensive paintings don’t have a “price tag” in the usual sense of the term. They hang on the walls of the great Art galleries and Museums and many are considered simply “priceless”. However, from time to time some of them change hands either in great Auction Houses like Christies’s or Sotheby’s or in private sales. 

So then, given below are some of  the most expensive paintings in history,  valued at hundreds of millions of US dollars, for reasons that defy logic.

21Pablo Picasso

Femme aux Bras Croisés (Woman with Folded Arms), 1902.
Sold for $55 million in 2000

20Vincent van Gogh

A Wheatfield with Cypresses, 1889
Sold for $57 million in 1993

19Kazimir Malevich

Suprematist Composition, 1916
Sold for $60 million in 2008

18Paul Cézanne

Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier, 1894
Sold for $60.5 million in 1999

17Willem de Kooning

Police Gazette, 1955
Sold for $63.5 in 2006

16Vincent Van Gogh

Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe (Self-portrait without beard), 1889
Sold for $71.5 million in 1998

15Andy Warhol

Green Car Crash, 1963
Sold for $71.7 million in 2007

14Mark Rothko

White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), 1950
Sold for $72.8 million in 2007

13Peter Paul Rubens

Massacre of the Innocents, 1611
Sold for $76.7 million in 2002

12Jasper Johns

False Start, 195
Sold for $80 million in 2006

11Claude Monet

Le Bassin aux Nymphéas (Water Lily Pond), 1919
Sold for $80.5 million in 2008

10Vincent Van Gogh

Portrait of Dr. Gachet, 1890
Sold for $82..5 million in 1990

9Francis Bacon

Triptych, 1976
Sold for $86.3 million in 2008

8Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912
Sold for $87.9 million in 2006

7Pablo Picasso

Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat), 1941
Sold for $95.2 in 2006

6Pablo Picasso

Garçon à la Pipe (Boy with a Pipe), 1905
Sold for $104.2 million in 2004

5Edvard Munch

The Scream
Sold for $119.9 million Sotheby’s in New York in 2012..

4Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907
Sold for $135 million in 2006

3Willem de Kooning

Woman III, 1953
Sold for $137.5 million in 2006

2Jackson Pollock

No. 5, 1948
Sold for $140 million in 2006

1Pablo Picasso

Le Rêve, 1932
Sold for $155 million in 2013