The $100 Million Artists

Artists Whose Works of Art Have Sold for Over $100 Million

The $100 Million Artists
February 15, 2016

What makes a painting worth $100 million or more? It only takes one thing — a buyer who likes it enough to pay that high of a price. The fame of the artist and an alluring backstory play a role, as does an appraisal from experts in the field, but in the end it boils down to whether a willing buyer exists.

According to the BBC, there are six members of the $100 million club, defined as artists that have at least one painting or sculpture that has sold for at least $100 million at auction. There are at least three other artists that belong in the club for reported private sales outside of auctions. For your consideration, we present the $100 million club and their valuable works.

Pablo Picasso – The prolific Picasso claims three paintings in the $100 million club: Garçon à la pipe from 1905 which sold for $104.1 million; Nude, Green Leaves and Bust from 1932 which sold for $106.5 million; and the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, Les femmes d'Alger from 1955 at $179.4 million.

Amedeo Modigliani – The Italian artist Modigliani is the latest to join the $100 million club with a November, 2015, auction at Christie's. His 1917-18 work Nu couche (Reclining Nude) brought in $170.4 million, putting it in second place behind Picasso.

Francis Bacon – Three Studies of Lucien Freud earned Bacon a spot in the $100 million club when it sold for $142.4 million at a Christie's auction in 2013.

Alberto Giacometti – The Swiss-born artist Giacometti was a world-renowned sculptor. Like Picasso, Giacometti has three works of art that broke the $100 million barrier: L'homme qui marche (Walking Man) from 1960, L'homme au doigt (Pointing Man) from 1947, and Chariot from 1950. They sold for $103.9 million, $141.3 million, and $101 million respectively.

Edvard Munch – There are few more famous (and more parodied) paintings than Munch's The Scream. The 1895 painting changed hands at a 2012 Sotheby's auction for just under $120 million.

Andy Warhol – The king of 1960's pop art registers one painting in the $100 million club, 1963's Silver Car Crash. His contemporary Roy Lichtenstein came close to joining the club with his painting Nurse that fetched $95.4 million in a recent auction.

Paul Gauguin – The French Post-Impressionist Gauguin is believed to hold the top dollar value with his 1892 work Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?). This painting of two Tahitian ladies sold for $300 million according to the New York Times. As with the Cézanne, it is believed to be somewhere in Qatar.

Paul Cézanne – Cézanne's piece The Card Players accurately describes the painting, showing three seated gentlemen playing cards along with several onlookers. A member of the royal family of Qatar reportedly purchased The Card Players for $250 million.

Mark Rothko – Rothko's 1951 work Violet, Green, and Red is self-explanatory — it is an abstract painting with the aforementioned three colors in three different thicknesses of horizontal stripes. A Russian billionaire chose to pay $186 million for this piece in a private sale.

Aside from the artists being white and male, and relatively modern by art standards, there is not a great deal in common between those works.

Could you become an artist and join the $100 million club as well? It does not seem likely, but if you are artistically inclined, why not give it a shot? However, remember that the referenced $100 million never goes to the artist. They have all passed on. You will just have to settle for posthumous fame.

Photos by,,,, Edvard Munch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,, Amedeo Modigliani [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,, Paul Cézanne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, Paul Gauguin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  Conversation   |   10 Comments

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irene | 02.12.16 @ 20:47
Can't say I would pay a million for any of these lol but to each their own
Carla | 02.12.16 @ 20:47
Wow! I don't understand how some of these are worth millions. Maybe it is just my taste.
Meredith L | 02.12.16 @ 20:48
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if your pockets are deep enough, I guess you'll pay anything to get what you want. Too bad there wasn't information here indicating if the artists made the club in their lifetime or post mortem.
Sara | 02.12.16 @ 20:49
It never made sense how some paintings are worth so much and some so little. How does one really say that somebody has talent enough to pay millions while others nothing. I wouldnt pay that much for any art work ever but that is just me.
Steffanie | 02.12.16 @ 20:49
I truly do not get art. I think my 10 year old could do better, so obviously I am not an art collector nor do I get how they have made so much money on those paintings.
Erin | 02.12.16 @ 20:49
I haven't heard of some of these artists, but most of them I am not surprised to see make the list. I would have expected a few others to be on there that are not though.
Nancy | 02.15.16 @ 18:04
All this just shows that taste is subjective. These numbers are amazing!
Amanda | 02.15.16 @ 18:04
There's no way I would pay that much for any painting. And these here listed I can't see spending that much in them. Some people just have way too much money!
Bobbie | 02.15.16 @ 18:06
Beautiful artwork, but never gonna be able to own one.
Kate | 02.16.16 @ 19:39
I don't have the money for these kinds of things, and if I did I am not sure I would spend it on these pieces of art. Some art, maybe. But not these. I think some people definitely have too much money on their hands. Could you imagine what would happen to this world if people actually spent their money on things that would benefit others instead of things like this??
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 01.21.21 @ 04:30