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Paintings

What paintings are considered the most valuable in the world? Read on for the answer.

Art collectors shell out enormous sums of money to own paintings of great renown. [© Jupiter Images, 2009]
© Jupiter Images, 2009
Art collectors shell out enormous sums of money to own paintings of great renown.

As is the case with sculptures, photographs, cars and other memorabilia, art collectors have shelled out enormous sums of money to own some of the world's most famous paintings. From drip paintings by Jackson Pollock to impressionist portraits by Vincent van Gogh, these paintings have fetched prices of more than $100 million at auction and have stirred up numerous controversies in the art community.

Works by Renoir and van Gogh

At one time the two most expensive paintings in the world, Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Bal au Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre and van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet were both sold in 1990 for $78 million and $82.5 million, respectively, to Ryoei Saito, a Japanese paper executive. The auction was run by Sotheby's, a famous auction house in New York City known for selling expensive artwork. According to US News and World Report, Saito unfortunately experienced some legal and financial difficulties in 1993, and by the time he died in 1996, the locations of both paintings were unknown. As of early 2009, the locations were still a mystery. Adjusted for inflation, their combined value is $264.9 million.

Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

The third most expensive painting in the world is Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Covered flecks of silver and gold, the oil painting represents some of the Austrian artist's best work and was sold for an astonishing $135 million in 2006 to Ronald Lauder, an avid art collector and the son of cosmetics pioneer Estée Lauder. The painting now resides in the Neue Galerie in New York City. According to the New York Times, Lauder, who founded the Galerie in 2001, called Klimt's masterpiece a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition.

De Kooning's Woman III

In 2006, hedge fund manager Stephen A. Cohen bought Willem De Kooning's Woman III for $137.5 million, making it the world's second most expensive painting. The painting had previously been owned by entertainment mogul David Geffen, who had owned it since 1994, when he acquired it from an Iranian museum in exchange for remnants of an old, albeit historically significant, painted manuscript.

Pollock's No. 5, 1948

The most expensive painting in the world to date is No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock. Sold by David Geffen for a reported $140 million in 2006, the sprawling 4- by 8-foot canvas exemplifies Pollock's drip painting technique, a style that earned the artist recognition as one of the most provocative and unique abstract expressionists of his time. Though unconfirmed, the buyer is rumored to be David Martinez, a Mexican financier.

The Mona Lisa and Other Early Paintings

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa may in fact be the most expensive painting in the world. Before it toured the United States in 1962, the Louvre had its value assessed for insurance purposes. The verdict: the painting was worth $100 million. This is considerably less than Pollock's No. 5 fetched at auction in 2006, but taking into account inflation (as represented by changes in the Consumer Price Index), the painting is actually worth approximately $670 million. Mona Lisa, however -- along with many other pre-19th century works of art -- will probably never be sold at auction, as it is kept mainly in museums and is considered to be priceless.

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