Picasso painting sold for $239m: Top 10 most expensive art sold at auction

A phone bidder holds up the winning bidder paddle after the Picasso masterpiece "Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)" sold for USD179.3 million at Christie's in New York City on May 11, 2015, smashing the record for most expensive art sold at auction. --
A phone bidder holds up the winning bidder paddle after the Picasso masterpiece "Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)" sold for USD179.3 million at Christie's in New York City on May 11, 2015, smashing the record for most expensive art sold at auction. -- PHOTO: AFP

Here are the top 10 most expensive artworks sold at auction:

1. The Women Of Algiers (Version O) - US$179.365 million (S$239 million)


The 1955 painting by Pablo Picasso, The Women Of Algiers (Version O), fetched more than US$179 million at Christie's in New York on May 11, 2015, setting the world record for the most expensive art sold at auction.

Inspired by Eugene Delacroix's 1834 Women Of Algiers In Their Apartment, the painting depicts scantily-attired Algerian concubines reclining and smoking a water pipe.

The painting is part of a 15-work series that was created between 1954 and 1955, and designated with the letters A to O.

The buyer was not identified.

2. Man Pointing - US$141.285 million


Alberto Giacometti's bronze sculpture Man Pointing set a record as the most expensive sculpture, at US$141.3million, sold at the same auction as Picasso's The Women Of Algiers (Version 0).

According to Tate Britain's website, the artwork was made for Giacometti's first exhibition in New York. The artist said he did the piece "in one night between midnight and nine the next morning".

"That is, I'd already done it, but I demolished it and did it all over again because the men from the foundry were coming to take it away. And when they got here, the plaster was still wet," he added.

Originally intended as a part of a larger compsition, the tall, thin figure's left arm was positioned loosely around a second figure.

However, Giacometti abandoned the idea, and considered Man Pointing to be a complete work.

Man Pointing's buyer chose to remain anonymous.

3. Three Studies Of Lucian Freud - US$142.4 million


The 1969 triptych (an artwork that is divided into three sections) by the British artist Francis Bacon was the previous world record holder when it was sold at Christie's for US$142.4 million on Nov 12, 2013.

The painting features fellow artist and close friend Lucian Freud sitting on a chair within a cage. However, the duo became rivals after an argument in the mid-1970s.

Christie's Francis Outred describes the painting as a mark of "Bacon and Freud's relationship, paying tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists".

The artwork was initially separated for 15 years following sales in the 1970s. According to the website of The Independent newspaper, the panels were united again by a collector in Rome who sold them to an anonymous US-based collector. The latter put the artwork up for auction at Christie's.

Art world sources claim the painting was sold to Ms Elaine Wynn, co-founder of the Wynn Casino Empire.

4. The Scream - US$119.9 million


An anonymous telephone bidder paid US$119 million for one of the world's most iconic artworks, Edvard Munch's The Scream, on May 2, 2012.

The Norwegian painter created four versions of The Scream, three of which are in museums. Two of them were stolen in 1994 and 2004, but have since been recovered.

The one that was sold contains a poem written on the frame by Munch himself, and is thus considered the most sought-after.

It reads: "I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting - The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy - I stood / Still, deathly tired - over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on - I remained behind / - shivering with Anxiety - I felt the great Scream in Nature - EM."

5. Nude, Green Leaves And Bust - US$106.5 million


All it took was eight minutes and six seconds for Pablo Picasso's painting Nude, Green Leaves And Bust to be sold at auction to a mystery bidder for US$106.5 million on May 4, 2010.

The 1932 painting features his then muse and mistress, Marie-Therese Walter.

Walter's first encounter with Picasso was at a Paris Metro station, where he took the 17-year-old by the arm and said: "I am Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together."

The artist was then still married to his first wife, ballerina Olga Khokhlova.

Walter and Picasso's affair went on until 1935 when he took on a new mistress - Yugoslavian photographer Dora Maar.

The New York Times named Chelsea FC's Russian owner, Roman Abramovich as the mystery bidder.

6. Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) - US$105 million


Pop artist Andy Warhol's 1963 artwork showing the aftermath of a car crash was sold at auction for US$105 million at Sotheby's, on Nov 13, 2013.

The 2.43m by 3.96m painting titled Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) has been seen only once in public in the past 26 years.

According to the Canadian newspaper National Post, the sale happened "amid a spending frenzy at the high end of the art world".

Two of Warhol's other paintings, Coca-Cola (3) and Liz #1 (Early Colored Liz), were sold for US$57.2 million and US$20 million respectively.

New York art gallery Acquavella Galleries was believed to have purchased the painting for an unidentified client.

7. Garcon a la Pipe (Boy With A Pipe) - US$104 million


Picasso's second artwork in the list, Boy With A Pipe, was sold for US$104 million in on May 5, 2004, at Sotheby's.

According to art website galleryIntell, the portrait of a Parisian boy wearing a wreath of flowers and holding a pipe was painted by 25-year-old Picasso when he was living in Paris' Monmartre district.

Little is known about the boy, as the artist's models at that point of time were local entertainers including clowns, acrobats, jugglers and harlequins working at Cirque Medrano.

The buyer's identity remains unknown.

8. L'homme qui marche I (The Walking Man I) - US$103.93 million


Giacometti's L'homme qui marche I (The Walking Man I) sold for $103.93 million at Sotheby's in London on Feb 3, 2010.

Cast in 1961, the 2.4m-tall sculpture is hailed as one of the most iconic images of Modern art, and was initially part of a public project for the Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York.

Giacometti prepared many sculptures for the installation, but was only satisfied with two - L'homme qui marche I and II. He eventually abandoned the project and had those two final sculptures cast in bronze and exhibited.

The buyer hid his identity, purchasing through an anonymous telephone bid.

9. Chariot - US$100.96 million


The third sculpture by Giacometti, titled Chariot, was sold for US$100.96 million at Sotheby's in New York on Nov 4, 2014.

The 1950 sculpture of a tall, thin woman riding a chariot which was painted bronze on a wooden base, is considered among the artist's finest.

Giacometti said that he got the inspiration from nurses' pharmacy wagons with their "tinkling bells" when he was recuperating in Bichat hospital after an accident.

Experts with knowledge of the sale claim hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen was the only bidder for the sculpture.

10. Dora Maar au chat (Dora Maar With Cat) - US$95.21 million


Another of Picasso's artworks, Dora Maar au chat, rounds up the top 10 list, after being sold for US$95.21 million at Sotheby's in New York on May 3, 2007.

The painting depicts Dora Maar, Picasso's new lover and muse after Marie-Therese Walter, sitting in a wooden chair with a black cat perched on her shoulder.

Painted in 1941 during World War II, the artwork is done in Picasso's cubism style, the first abstract art style.

Dora Maar au chat is one of many portraits that Picasso painted during his 10-year relationship with the photographer.

The portrait was sold to an unknown Russian buyer.

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