The Most Expensive Artworks Sold in the Last Decade

Freddi Wald
3 min readJul 26, 2022

Some art sells for so much, even most millionaires would break their budget trying to acquire it. However, what are the most expensive artworks sold in the last decade alone, and what made them so valuable?

Freddi Wald says that the priciest artwork ever was Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450 million in 2017. This was followed by Willem de Kooning’s Interchange, priced at over $300 million, as well as Paul Gaugin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo at more than $200 million.

Why would someone pay so much for a mere illustration? Frederica Wald takes a closer look at each of these outrageously priced artworks will reveal a number of answers.

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Salvator Mundi — Leonardo da Vinci

Sometimes, worth stems from sheer rarity. Likely painted around the end of the 15th century, Salvator Mundi at one point disappeared for nearly 200 years before its rediscovery in 1900. It then vanished again until 2005, at which point experts believed it to be a mere copy of a da Vinci painting rather than an original work.

After years of restoration and analysis, Salvator Mundi finally sold at auction in 2017 for just over $450 million. This hefty price tag makes sense despite the work’s occasionally challenged authenticity when considering that surviving da Vinci paintings hardly ever resurface, with fewer than 20 believed to currently exist worldwide.

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Interchange — Willem de Kooning

When Willem de Kooning first sold Interchange in 1955, he received only a modest $4000 for it. Fast forward 60 years, and the price ballooned to $300 million. At the time, it ranked as the highest price ever paid for a painting.

To make sense of this inflation, one must consider de Kooning’s death in 1997. Even before then, the painting once sold for nearly $21 million, considered an unusually high price at the time given that de Kooning was still alive. However, he had also recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His career was over, which meant the price for his work began to skyrocket.

Nafea Faa Ipoipo — Paul Gaugin

Paul Gaugin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry) sold for almost $210 million just over half a year before Interchange stole its place as the highest-priced painting of all time. While many rank the painting among Gaugin’s greatest works from his time in Tahiti, there exists one other explanation for the high price tag: the sheer thrill of spending.

At the time Qatar acquired this painting, they’d already set another record for art purchases, having bought Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players for around $250 million in 2011. That purchase took place just a year too early to qualify for this list, but it certainly establishes the country’s willingness to bid high for quality works by men named Paul.


Whether for the sake of preserving a rare piece, collecting a work by a deceased artist, or simply adding another high-priced item to their collection, art buyers may continue to invest their money in countless millions to own a unique, genius piece of art, representative of a historical period or style and of course, something nobody else can own. With three of the most expensive artworks of all time sold in just the last ten years, one can only guess what records the art world may set next?



Freddi Wald

Freddi Wald is examining marketing, the arts as well as culture sector 2021. Join her on the journey.