Most expensive art ever sold – and how they compare to the priciest NFTs

Published on Mar 31, 2022 at 4:43 PM (UTC+4)
by Brandon Livesay

Last updated on May 18, 2022 at 4:57 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Kate Bain

Most expensive art ever sold – and how they compare to the priciest NFTs

Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is tipped to become the most expensive 20th century art to ever sell at auction when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s in May – experts say it’ll cost US$200m.

It’s one of the most iconic images in pop culture, Marilyn Monroe’s face in Warhol’s distinctive American Pop style.

It’s not often a piece of art this famous is sold to private collectors, and Christie’s Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art Alex Rotter called it “the most significant painting to come to auction in a generation.

So how does it compare to the most expensive artworks ever sold?

And how close in price are the most expensive NFTs?

Let’s take a look.

Most expensive paintings ever sold

1. $450.3m – Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci

The masterpiece by the master himself.

Salvator Mundi was sold by Christie’s in 2016 after a 19 minute bidding war. The winning bidder was the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman.

It’s the only work by Da Vinci to remain in a private collection.

2. $300m – Interchange (1955) by Willem de Kooning

The Dutch American painter created this Abstract Expressionism masterpiece in 1955, but it really hit headlines in 2015 when it sold for $300m. The buyer was Chicago hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin. Griffin pops up again on this list a little further down.

3. $250m – The Card Players (1892) by Paul Cézanne

When this Cézanne masterpiece sold in 2012 it was the most expensive artwork in the world. It was purchased by the Royal Family of Qatar.

It’s one of five paintings that are variations of the same scene, the others are in museums.

4. $210m – Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (1892) – by Paul Gauguin

The buyer of this Tahiti scene of two young women has never been made public, but they forked out about $210m in a private sale in 2015. Rumours are the buyer was from the Qatari Royal Family.

5. $200m – Number 17A (1948) by Jackson Pollock

Imagine not buying one but two of the most expensive paintings ever, and on the same day. Because that’s what Kenneth C. Griffin did in 2015.

He splurged $500m on this Pollock painting and the Kooning painting that sits at number 2 on our list.

How do the most expensive NFTs compare?

So we get it, masterpiece paintings cost a fortune. But what about non-fungible tokens and digital art?

NFTs are climbing fast in value and are nearly at the $100m mark.

1. $91.8m – The Merge by Pak

Sitting at the top of the list is The Merge, but it doesn’t have one single buyer. Instead nearly 9000 collectors bought 312,686 total units of mass (NFTs). It’s a record price paid for an artwork sold publicly to a living artist.

2. $69.3m – Everydays: the First 5000 Days by Beeple

This sale was the highest price paid in an online auction, Christie’s said. Beeple said in a statement: “I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art”.

3. $52.7m – Clock by Pak and Julian Assange

This digital artwork is a ticking clock that counts the days WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been imprisoned. The money was used to pay for Assange’s legal bills. The buyer was a group of more than 10,000 people who pooled their money together under the name AssangeDAO.


Brandon Livesay

Brandon Livesay covers the latest headlines and news across automotive, technology, gaming, watches, movies and lifestyle. Brandon is an experienced editor and journalist, and has worked across multiple publishers in Australia. Awards and recognition: Winner - Outstanding Online News - Breaking Issued by Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism | Nov 2021 Winner - Outstanding Online News - Breaking Issued by Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism | Nov 2020 Winner - 2014 Queensland Country Press Association, Journalistic Excellence 'Individual' Winner - 2014 Queensland Country Press Association, Best News Picture