Sculptures and paintings have been some of the earliest forms of art, revealing to humanity the untold story of our civilization. Imbued with anthropological and cultural value, they tell us how we imagine and perceive the world around us, and how these perceptions have slowly changed over the years, with new trends coming into vogue.
Most of us have cherished memories of visiting museums and art galleries and being awestruck by what we’ve found there. But how much more amazing would it be, to have a private museum all to oneself, where some of the world’s greatest pieces of art, are displayed?
Well, there are some millionaires and billionaires out there, who are really like that lucky and here are some of the most expensive sculptures ever sold.
10 Reclining Figure: Festival by Henry Moore- $31.1 million
This abstract statue was created in 1951 by Henry Moore as a commission from the Arts Council for the Festival of Berlin. It features a highly abstracted form of a reclining female figure, resting on her two arms.
Moore first began with a sketch, followed by plaster maquettes and a small bronze model, which was later enlarged to create a full-size cast.
Of the sculpture, Moore famously said, “The Festival Reclining Figure is perhaps my first sculpture where the space and the form are completely dependent on and inseparable from each other. I had reached the stage where I wanted my sculpture to be truly three-dimensional.”
9 Tulips by Jeff Koons- $34.8 million
American artist Jeff Koons is famous for his works that infuse elements of pop culture with everyday objects. His stainless-steel “balloon animals” sculptures have been particularly noted.
His gigantic steel sculpture “Tulips” was sold for an enormous price at Christie’s to hotel mogul, Steve Wynn who is very passionate about collecting famous pieces of art.
The sculpture features a bouquet of tulips, in different colors with transparent color coating and mirror-polished stainless steel. It was one of the five unique versions created.
8 Madame LR (Portrait de Mme LR) by Constantin Brâncuși- $41.5 million
Created in 1918 by Constantin Brâncuși, the piece has been characterized as an “abstract” sculpture of the female form, although the sculptor himself disagrees with the sentiment. He once said, “There are idiots who define my work as abstract; yet what they call abstract is what is most realistic.”
Nevertheless, Brâncuși remains famous as one of most famous Modernist sculptors from France, with a particular talent for woodworks.
The piece was sold from the private collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé for over $30 million on 24th February, 2009.
7 Grand tête mince by Alberto Giacometti- $50.9 million
Giacometti’s sculptures are worth a fortune now. Widely regarded as one of the most prominent sculptors of the 20th century, this Swiss artist was heavily influenced by the art and the philosophical movements of his time, such as Surrealism, Cubism and Existentialism.
His work is particularly celebrated for the motif of the solitary and suffering human figure. However, this piece whose title roughly translates to “large thin head” is a male bust that he created in 1955.
The sculpture is noted for its unusual proportions and when viewed from different angles, it appears as two distinct heads.
6 Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV) by Henri Matisse- $53 million
Henry Matisse is more famous as a painter, especially for the way he used vivid colors and conveyed a sense of fluidity and movement in his works. Along with Pablo Picasso, his impact on modern art was quite significant.
However, he was also a sculptor and one of his pieces was sold for $53 million. He made a series of sculptures modeled on the human back, which also happened to be the largest pieces he had ever made.
Cast in bronze, this piece features a seemingly androgynous back with an abstracted plait.
5 Guennol Lioness- $65.4 million
This one is the oldest sculpture on this list, and by a fairly huge margin. Although we do not know who the original artist was, we are fairly certain that it’s around 5000 years old.
This limestone statue was reportedly discovered in Iraq and merges both animal and human features. With feminine curves on the lower body, the absence of male sex organs and the head of a lioness, the sculpture has been the subject of numerous debates and is speculated to be an ancient Mesopotamian deity, who often took on the form of anthropomorphic figures.
What is most interesting is the fact that this sculpture was created around the same time as the invention of the wheel and the beginnings of cuneiform writing, adding to its immense historical value.
4 Balloon Dog (Orange) by Jeff Koons- $59.4 million
The second Jeff Koons sculpture on this list, Balloon Dog was a part of his Celebration series. Five unique pieces in different colors were produced with the orange version being sold at a record price.
The piece exudes an aura of childishness, playfulness and optimism. However Koons has a slightly darker take on it, saying, “I’ve always enjoyed balloon animals because they’re like us. We’re balloons. You take a breath and you inhale, it’s an optimism. You exhale, and it’s kind of a symbol of death.”
3 Tête by Amedeo Modigliani- $64.7 million
Created between 1910- 1912 by the legendary Italian Jewish sculptor and painter Amedeo Modigliani, the sculpture represents a woman in a tribal mask. The limestone head is over 2 feet tall.
It is one of the 27 sculptures that Modigliani had ever made.
The entire auction for this was comprised almost entirely of telephone bidders, with the final anonymous buyer paying over $60 million, which was the highest price for any work of art sold in France, till date.
2 L’Homme Qui Marche I by Alberto Giacometti- $113.4 million
The title of this sculpture translates to the “Walking Man” and features Giacometti’s signature motif. It depicts a lonely thin man in a mid-stride pose and exudes a sense of vulnerability, sadness and loneliness- themes which recur repeatedly in the sculptor’s work.
It held the record for being the most expensive sculpture ever sold, until it was broken by the sale of another Giacometti sculpture!
1 L’Homme Au Doigt by Alberto Giacometti- $141.3 million
This bronze sculpture was created in 1945 and holds the world record for the most expensive sculpture ever sold. Translated as the “Pointing Man”, the piece depicts a solitary wraith-like thin man standing upright and pointing.
Created in a world that was just recovering from the devastating effects of the Second World War, Valerie Fletcher wrote of the piece: “This stick figure suited the zeitgeist of the war’s aftermath — perhaps a positive metaphor for civilization emerging from the years of physical and psychic horror.”
No wonder, his evocative sculptures remain so relevant in these modern times!