From Picasso to Leonardo: The Most Expensive Art Sales Of The 2010s

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The overflow crowd at Christie’s auction house broke into applause when the gavel fell on the blockbuster art sale of the decade. On the evening of November 15, 2017, a little-known Saudi prince, bidding over the phone, agreed to pay $450.3 million for “Salvator Mundi,” a 500-year-old portrait of a solemn Jesus Christ hyped by Christie’s as the “The Last da Vinci.” No matter that many art scholars believed the work was a product of Leonardo’s studio rather than the master himself.

Few artworks have aroused as much curiosity. Since the sale, the painting seems to have gone missing. The Louvre Abu Dhabi abruptly canceled a scheduled unveiling in September 2018. The latest speculation is that Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whisked away the painting in the middle of the night on his private plane and stowed it on his $500 million yacht, Serene, currently sailing who knows where.

Is “Salvator Mundi” the most expensive artwork ever sold? It’s not clear. Although auction houses trade their treasures in public, most transactions take place privately. Still, record-breaking sales have a way of coming to light.

After combing through news reports and legal documents, we’ve put together the highest-priced known art deals in each year of the last decade. See the slide show for pictures and prices. Tap to move from one slide to the next.

In second place: “Interchange,” a 1955 abstract expressionist oil in cream, orange, yellow and sea green by Willem de Kooning, which fetched $300 million in September 2015. Chicago hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin reportedly paid entertainment billionaire David Geffen’s foundation a total of $500 million for two works. The second was “Number 17A,” a 1948 drip painting by Jackson Pollock. Griffin loaned both works to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is a trustee.

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