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2023’s Most Expensive Art Auctions: Unveiling the Pricey Masterpieces

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After two years of an overheated art market, 2023 saw a major correction with fewer blockbuster sales and more rational pricing. The art market in 2023 experienced a significant downturn compared to previous years. Key trends included far fewer paintings breaking the $50 million threshold compared to 2021 and 2022 amid broader economic uncertainty. Despite this, several artworks still fetched staggering prices at auctions around the world. One painting that made headlines was the Pablo Picasso artwork, Femme à la montre, 1932, which sold for $139 million. In this blog post, we will explore the top 5 most expensive art auctions of 2023. We’ll provide context about the artworks and their creators, as well as their place in art history.

Top 5 most Expensive Art Auctions of 2023

1. Pablo Picasso, Femme à la montre, 1932 – Sold for $139 million:

Pablo Picasso’s below famous artwork took center stage as the highest-selling artwork of 2023, fetching a staggering $139 million.

Pablo Picasso, Femme à la montre auction

Pablo Picasso, La Femme à la montre, 1932 © Succession Picasso 2023 ©Sotheby’

Painted in 1932, this masterpiece, which once graced the collection of the late New York philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau, captivates with Picasso’s distinctive style. The painting, depicting a woman with a watch, now marks the second-highest price achieved by Picasso at auction, underscoring the enduring allure of the Spanish maestro.

2. Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan), 1917 – Sold for $80 million:

Sotheby’s London played host to a historic moment as Gustav Klimt’s “Dame mit Fächer” went under the hammer, surpassing all expectations.

Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Fächer auction

Gustav Klimt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The last known portrait by Klimt, this 1917 masterpiece was initially estimated to fetch £65 million ($80 million). However, the bidding fervor saw the painting hammering at £74 million ($94.3 million), ultimately reaching a staggering £85.3 million ($108 million). This is nearly 10 times the amount it garnered during its last auction appearance in New York in 1994.

3. Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas, 1919 – Sold for $74 million:

In a momentous evening at Christie’s in New York, Claude Monet’s “Le bassin aux nymphéas” exceeded expectations, selling for $74 million.

Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas auction

Claude Monet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Painted in 1919 as part of Monet’s iconic water lilies series, this artwork showcases the artist’s profound connection with nature and light. The impressive price tag not only secured its place among the most expensive Monet paintings ever auctioned but also highlighted the enduring demand for the Impressionist master’s work.

4. Jean-Michel Basquiat, El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile), 1983 – Sold for $67 million:

The contemporary art scene witnessed a triumph as Jean-Michel Basquiat’s triptych, “El Gran Espectaculo,” commanded a price of $67 million.

@thebaerfaxt


This three-panel painting, featuring Basquiat’s signature motifs against a predominantly orange and black background, captivated bidders. Previously part of the collection of fashion designer Valentino Garavani, the piece soared past its estimated value of around $45 million. In turn becoming a highlight of Christie’s contemporary evening sale in May.

5. Gustav Klimt, Insel im Attersee (Island in the Attersee), ca. 1901–02 – Sold for $53 million:

A testament to the enduring legacy of Gustav Klimt, “Insel im Attersee” fetched staggering $53 million.

Art Auction of Gustav Klimt, Insel im Attersee 2023

Gustav Klimt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Once owned by art collector Otto Kallir, this 1901–02 masterpiece captures the scenic beauty of the Salzkammergut region of Austria. The painting, never before seen at auction, surpassed expectations by commanding $53 million. This showcased the continued resonance of Klimt’s work in the contemporary art market.

Despite the downward trend in the expensive art auctions in 2023, several artworks still fetched staggering prices at auctions around the world. Picasso, Klimt, Monet, and Basquiat, represent some of the most important works in the history of art. While the prices of these artworks may seem exorbitant, their significance and historical importance make them valuable and enduring contributions to the world of art.

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