2022's Most Valuable Artworks With Some Over $100M

2022 yielded some of the most expensive public auction sales in history, with artworks fetching $80 million to over $100 million. 

Since 2023 is still underway, the most expensive paintings sold this year are yet to be determined. However, works like Louise Bourgeois’ “Spider ” (1996), Picasso’s 1932 portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “El Gran Espectaculohave fetched millions of dollars in recent months. 

Despite economic instability brought about by the pandemic, the art world experienced a boom in sales from 2022. In fact, among the top ten most expensive paintings sold last year, even the lowest ranked lots fetched prices that exceeded $80 million, as reported by Artnet News. Meanwhile, the six most expensive pieces of that year sold over $100 million. 

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Most of the highest selling pieces came from esteemed art collector Paul Allen. He broke records with his masterpiece-filled collection last November, which sold for a total of $1.5 billion dollars. 

More works are likely to break sale records in the coming months. In the meantime, those who wish to catch up on auction news can refer to this list of 2022’s most valuable fine art pieces: 

Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”: $195 million

Warhol’s recognizable “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” (1964) sits at the very top of this list. Christie’s sold the silkscreen painting to Larry Gagosian for a jaw-dropping $195 million during its 2022 New York sale. What’s more, the work is the only one in this top six list that didn’t come from Allen’s priceless collection of masterpieces. Instead, it hails from the collection of Swiss art dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann. 

"Shot Sage Blue Marilyn" (40 x 40 in, silkscreen ink on linen)
“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” (40 x 40 in, silkscreen ink on linen)/Photo from Christie’s website

“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” is a shining example of Warhol’s signature techniques. It features the artist’s use of eye-popping colors and textures; elements derived from the industrial silkscreen printing process. Warhol was also fascinated by pop culture figures. Though he never met Marilyn Monroe, she became the subject of this famous painting. 

The recently sold piece is actually one of five silkscreen works of Monroe. The late artist created four other 40-inch pieces in light blue, red, orange, and turquoise. 

From its bright color palette to stunning textures, “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” is a valuable part of modern art history. It’s also the most expensive 20th century work to have ever been sold at an auction. 

Georges Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble”: $149.2 million

Christie’s sold Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble” (Petite version) for an impressive $149.2 million last November. The artwork was the most valuable piece from the coveted collection of Paul Allen. It showcases Seurat’s widely-known pointillism technique, which uses dots of pure color to form a picture, rather than long strokes of paint. 

The "petite" version of "Les Poseuses, Ensemble"
The “petite” version of “Les Poseuses, Ensemble” (15½ x 19¾ inches, oil on canvas)/Photo from Christie’s website

Les Poseuses managed to beat the $35.2 million auction record set by Seurat’s other work, Paysage, “l’Ile de la Grande-Jatte,” back in 1999. The previous record-holder was an iteration of Seurat’s iconic “Un dimanche d’été à l’Île de La Grande Jatte” (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte), but without its famous subjects lounging in the landscape. 

Seurat's iconic "Un dimanche d’été à l’Île de La Grande Jatte" (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte)
Seurat’s iconic “Un dimanche d’été à l’Île de La Grande Jatte” (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte)/Photo from the Art Institute of Chicago via Wikimedia Commons

Les Poseuses is also connected to Seurat’s iconic A Sunday Afternoon, as the latter work is displayed behind the three female subjects getting dressed.

The specific version sold by Christie’s is actually a smaller oil painting study done during the last stages of the final painting’s completion. Christie’s official essay on the piece described it as an “extremely rare work,” since Seurat only created a handful of studies for his pieces—this one being the most refined version of the scene. 

Paul Cézanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire”: $137.8 million 

Another coveted piece from Allen made waves in Christie’s November New York sale: Cézanne’s “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” (1888–90). 

Cézanne is recognized for his bold brush strokes and colors, which give volume to the subjects of his paintings. “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” is one of the rarer works in his oeuvre, depicting the breathtaking beauty of Southern France’s beloved limestone mountain

"La Montagne Sainte-Victoire" (25⅝ x 31⅞ in, oil on canvas)
“La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” (25⅝ x 31⅞ in, oil on canvas)/Photo from Christie’s website

Christie’s official lot essay wrote: “Presenting an unimpeded view of the mountain, this work is filled with a majestic visual drama, heightened by Cezanne’s revolutionary use of color. Myriad layers of strokes vibrate across the canvas, creating the perspective and compositional depth of the scene. One of the most vividly colored works of this series, this painting exemplifies the artist’s meticulous observation and masterful technique.”

The work fetched a price that was almost 4 times higher than the $38.5 million Allen paid when he purchased it from an auction in 2001. 

Vincent Van Gogh’s “Verger avec cypres”: $117.2 million

As with most of the pieces on this list, Van Gogh’s “Verger avec cypres” (1888) is another monumentally valuable painting from the Allen collection. Depicting a spring garden in light pastel colors, the work is quite a unique piece. The techniques used for it are closer to pointillism than the late artist’s trademark swirling brushstrokes. 

"Verger avec cyprès" (25¾ x 31⅞ inches, oil on canvas)
“Verger avec cyprès” (25¾ x 31⅞ inches, oil on canvas)/Photo from Christie’s website

The last time a Van Gogh work broke auction records was in 1990, when the artist’s “Portrait of Doctor Gachet” sold for $82.5 million to Japanese collector Ryoei Saito. Though many of Van Gogh’s works have sold for millions of dollars, few have been able to beat Doctor Gachet’s record until “Verger avec cypres.”

Van Gogh's "Portrait of Doctor Gachet," which was formerly the most expensive painting from the artist's oeuvre
Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Doctor Gachet,” which was formerly the most expensive painting from the artist’s oeuvre/Photo via Wikimedia Commons

“This painting belongs to the landmark series of fourteen canvases depicting orchards in blossom that stand as Van Gogh’s first major body of work in the south [of France],” stated Christie’s official essay on “Verger avec cypres.”

“With their assured handling and luminous, delicate palette, these paintings demonstrate Van Gogh’s great love of nature and his innate ability to read the colors, atmosphere, and distinct qualities of a landscape and translate these into pictorial form,” the essay continued. 

Out of all the paintings in the aforementioned series, “Verger avec cyprès” is one of five works to remain in private hands. Institutions like the Otterlo’s Kröller-Müller Museum, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum have the remaining works on display.

Paul Gauguin’s “Maternité II”: $105.7 million 

Second to the last in this list of valuable works is Gauguin’s “Maternité II” (1899), also from Allen’s collection. The collector purchased it from Sotheby’s in 2004 for $39.2 million. 

"Maternité II" (37¼ x 24 in, oil on burlap)
“Maternité II” (37¼ x 24 in, oil on burlap)/Photo from Christie’s website

The painting’s  $105.7 million price makes it the most expensive Gauguin ever sold. The previous record-holder was “L’Homme à la hache,” which sold for $40.3 million in Christie’s 2006 New York sale. However, this only holds true if we’re referring to public auction pieces. A collector from Quatar purchased Gauguin’s “Nafea Faa Ipoipo” for an impressive $210 million: the highest price for a Klimt work if one considers private sales. This means that the value of “Maternité II” has officially superseded “L’Homme à la hache” in terms of public sales.

"L’Homme à la hache" was the most expensive Gauguin piece sold publicly until "Maternité II"
“L’Homme à la hache” was the most expensive Gauguin piece sold publicly until “Maternité II”/Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The painting is representative of Gauguin’s love for all things Tahitian. Christie’s described the piece as one that “offers a timeless vision of femininity and motherhood, a verdant ode to fertility.” Three Tahitian women are the subjects of the work, with one shown breastfeeding a baby.

A large part of Gauguin’s work revolves around Tahitian women in “paradisiacal” settings. In these works, the artist shows a “mastery of the figure depicted in evermore fantastical, decorative settings.” This allowed him to “create compositions permeated with mystery and magic,” with “experimental use of color and arabesque lines further infusing these works with a daring level of abstraction,” the lot’s official essay expounded. 

It’s easy to see why Gauguin cherished the beautiful piece; so much so that he insisted on holding onto it until his death.

Gustav Klimt’s Birch Forest: $104.6 million 

Last but not least in the list of expensive works is Klimt’s “Birch Forest” (1903), which sold for $104.6 million. Though it ranks sixth in this roster, its value is by no means small, even in the world of luxuriously-priced paintings. 

"Birch Forest" (43 ⅜ x 43 ¼ inches, oil on canvas)
“Birch Forest” (43 ⅜ x 43 ¼ inches, oil on canvas)/Photo from Christie’s website

Klimt is known for his ornate and intricate portraits of graceful subjects. However, the Austrian artist also created a notable number of landscape portraits characterized by their “mystery and timelessness.”

“Birch Forest”  is no exception, as it depicts a lush forest with towering birch trees. 

Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II" sold for $87.9 million in 2006
Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” sold for $87.9 million in 2006/Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Christie’s official lot essay wrote: “A multitude of hues, gold, russet, and sage make up this mosaic-like accumulation of strokes, a contrast to the deep green foliage that lines the top of the closely cropped canvas. With his distinctive artistic technique, including his newly adapted pointillist-style brushstrokes, Klimt transformed this quiet corner of a woods into a shimmering vision of subtle color, pattern, and light.” 

The painting beat the record held by Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II,” which sold for $87.9 million in Christie’s 2006 New York sale. It’s the only Klimt painting that sold for over $100 million. The next most expensive piece in his oeuvre would be Bauerngarten, which sold for $59 million at Sotheby’s. 

Banner photo by Paul Gauguin via Christie’s official website.

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