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A painting’s value is indicated by two factors; its history, and the artist behind it. Whether to showcase one’s refined taste, or for personal appreciation, art enthusiasts are willing to fork out discretionary dollars, avidly adding pieces to their ever-growing collection. Surprisingly, works by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali failed to make the cut for the world’s priciest paintings. We’ve listed the top five, as referenced in The Telegraph.
1. When Will You Marry
Price: US$300 million (S$422,025,000)
By Paul Gauguin
Topping the charts is Gauguin’s painting, also titled Nafea Faa Ipoipo in Tahitian. It was completed in 1892 during Gauguin’s first escapade to Tahiti, as he wanted to leave everything ‘artificial’ and ‘conventional’ in Europe. The painting depicts two young Tahitian women dressed in bright colours. The first is in a native dress, while the other is dressed in a colonial style, symbolising European convention and Polynesian custom. Even in the modern age, the sale of his painting in February was shrouded in secrecy — it’s only known that the buyer hails from Qatar. Like Vincent Van Gogh, Gauguin’s works only became more notable after his death.
2. The Card Players
Price: US $274 million (S$385,449,500)
By Paul Cézanne
Thought to be a cornerstone of Cézanne’s work, The Card Players features two Aix-en-Provence peasants engrossed in a card game. This post-impressionist masterpiece adapted the drinking-and-card-games motif from the 17th-century French Genre paintings, but replaced the typical rowdiness and gambling money — most typically identified in such paintings — with stone-faced gentlemen decked in suits and hats. While the other four ‘sister’ paintings are displayed in museums, the fifth painting was bought over by the Qatari royal family.
3. No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)
Price: US $186 million (S$261,655,500)
By Mark Rothko
The dramatic Rybolovlev–Bouvier deal propelled this piece onto the list, with Rybolovlev accusing his respective dealer of fraud. The Russian cardiologist-turned-billionaire was a keen collector of art pieces, and Rothko’s No. 6 was meant to be his largest investment yet. Despite the lack of subject matter, the skilful blend of colours mysteriously allures viewers, and potential buyers alike. The dark rectangular shades bleed into one another, which Rothko used to symbolise his state of depression.
4. Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)
Price: US $186 million (S$261,655,500)
By Pablo Picasso
This piece of artwork has not seen much daylight, considering it has only been on public display for just 10 days since its release in 1940. Part of a series of 15 paintings (labeled A to O), Version O has been placed from one hand to another, and was most recently sold in May during a Christie’s auction. This particular piece was inspired by French Romantic artist Eugène’s oil-on-canvas painting The Women of Algiers in their Apartment, and the death of Henri Matisse, master of odalisque. Version O is the epitome of the series, and is considered the artist’s most significant work under private ownership. Count yourself honoured if you’ve seen it.
5. No. 5, 1948
Price: US$165.4 million (S$232,676,450)
By Paul Jackson Pollock
It comes to no surprise that Pollock’s painting is one of the most valuable paintings in the world, given that he was a major figure in the abstract expressionistic movement. This eight- by four-ft sheet of fibreboard is splattered by synthetic resin paints, and resembles a dense bird’s nest. What many may not know is that the painting was completely altered in 1949, due to damage caused while changing hands between owners. Pollock patched the blotched painting, hoping the owner wouldn’t notice due to the irregularity of the artwork. Alas, the eagle-eyed owner spotted a smear, and Pollock agreed to repair the damage. He completely altered the original, reinforcing the abstract concept, evoking a variety of emotions from viewers, some who argued that the meaning of the original painting was lost.