Alberto Giacometti - L’Homme qui marche I
Amedeo Modigliani - Tête
The Guennol Lioness
Henri Matisse - Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV)
Artemis and the Stag
Constantini Brancusi: Bird in space
David Smith: Cubi XXVIII - image from www.guggenheimcollection.org
Damien Hirst's controversial Skull
Alberto Giacometti: "Grande Femme debut"
Constantini Brancusi: Danaide
Edgar Degas: Petite danseuse de quatorze ans
Antonio Canova: The Three graces
by G. Fernández - theartwolf.com
Last Updated: June 2013
While working on the "top 10 most expensive paintings ever sold" list, we noticed that a lot of lists about that subject were displayed in many websites -though many of them were incorrect- but, surprisingly, no list about "the top 10 most expensive sculptures ever sold" could be found. It is not absurd, therefore, to assert that this is the first list of this type published on the internet.
1. Alberto Giacometti: "L’Homme qui marche I", 1961
$104.3 million - Sotheby's London, February 2010
This life-size work ranks among the most arresting and iconic of the artist’s bronzes, and became the most expensive work of Art ever auctioned at that time.
2. Amedeo Modigliani:"'Tête'", 1910-12
$59.5 million - Christie's Paris, June 2010
One of the 27 sculptures Modigliani ever created (and one of the only ten remaining in private hands), this stone sculpture is the most expensive work of art ever auctioned in France
3. Unknown artist: "The Guennol Lioness", c.3000 b.c.
$57.2 million - Sotheby's NY, December 5th 2007
The Guennol Lioness, a true masterpiece of Ancient Art, was created approximately 5,000 years ago in the region of ancient Mesopotamia. This work is also the most expensive antiquity ever sold
4. Alberto Giacometti: "Grande tête mince", 1955
$53.3 million - Christie's New York, May 2010
Giacometti is the king of this list. But, paradoxically, this great bust was sold in the same auction in which a painting by Picasso sold for $106.5 million, dethroning Giacometti as the most expensive artist ever
5. Henri Matisse: "Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV)", 1958
$48.8 million - Christie's New York, November 2010
The auction was the first time in history that a work from the artist’s celebrated 'Back' series has ever come to auction
6. Constantin Brancusi: "Madame LR (Portrait de Mme LR)", c.1914-17
$36.8 million - Christie's Paris, Fenruary 24th 2009
One of the stars of the so-called "auction of the century", the sale of the Yves Saint Laurent collection of Art
7. Jeff Koons: "Tulips", 1995-2004
$33.7 million Christie's NY, November 14th 2012
"Tulips" is one of five unique versions, the others belonging to famous institutions like the Guggenheim Bilbao or the Broad Contemporary Art Museum
8. Pablo Picasso: "Tete de femme (Dora Maar)", 1941
$29.1 million Sotheby's NY, November 7th 2007
Picasso is a "must" in any most-expensive-Art list. This piece slightly surpassed the auction record set by a Roman antiquity (see below), but was smashed by the Guennol Lionness
9. Unknown artist: "Artemis and the stag", 1st century b.c.- 1st century a.c.
$28.6 million Sotheby's NY, June 2007
This beautiful and well-preserved bronze statue is also the second most expensive sculpture ever sold.
10. Constantini Brancusi: "Bird in space", 1922-23
$27.5 million Christie's NY, May 2005
Brancusi is arguably the most important sculptor of the 20th century and his 'Birds in space' rank among his most iconic works. This stylized piece surpassed the previous auction record for a sculpture -also held by Brancusi- in almost $10 million.
Damien Hirst: "For the love of God", 2006
$100 million - Private sale, August 2007
Hirst have claimed to have sold this skull with 8,601 diamonds for £50 million in 2007. If confirmed, it would be the highest price ever paid for an sculpture by a living artist
Alberto Giacometti: "Grande Femme debut", 1959/60
$27.5 million Christie's NY, May 2008
Executed in response to a commission for the new Chase Manhattan Bank headquarters and public plaza in New York
David Smith: "Cubi XXVIII", 1965
$23.5 million Sotheby's NY, November 2005 Buyer: Eli Broad
Smith's impressive sculpture -formerly in the Guggenheim Museum- was purchased by Larry Gagosian, representing collector Eli Broad. This is the most expensive contemporary sculpture ever sold.
Alberto Giacometti: "Le chat", 1955
$20.8 million - Christie's New York, May 2010
Sold in the same auction that "Grande tête mince" (see above)
Pablo Picasso: "La grue", 1951/52
$19.1 million Sotheby's NY, May 2008
Auguste Rodin: "Eve, grand modèle", c.1885
$18.97 million Christie's NY, May 2008
"Eve, grand modèle-version sans rocher" by Auguste Rodin marks one of the great turning points in modern sculpture, and it was initially conceived in the 1880s for 'The Gates of Hell'.
Alberto Giacometti: "L'homme qui chavire", 1947
$18.5 million Christie's NY, May 2007
Constantini Brancusi: "Danaide", 1913
$18.1 million Christie's NY, May 2002
This elegant bronze head was the most expensive sculpture ever sold for three years, until it was surpassed by another Brancusi, the "Bird in space" (see above)
Alberto Giacometti: "Grande femme debout I", c.1954
$14.3 million Christie's NY, November 2000
This work held the auction record for a sculpture until the sale of Brancusi's Danaide in 2002
Alberto Giacometti: "Grande tête de Diego", c.1954
$13.8 million Sotheby's NY, May 2002
Giacometti's expressive head sold for almost double its high estimate
10. Alberto Giacometti: "La forêt", 1950
$13.2 million Christie's NY, May 2002
Another Giacometti in this list. Large groups of extremely thin figures such as this rank among the artist's greatest achievements
Henri Matisse: "Figure decorative", 1952
$12.9 million Sotheby's NY, November 2006
Matisse's bronces like this are still a bit overrated by the Art market, since they are not among his greatest achievements. Another 1952 bronce by Matisse was sold for only $3.6 million in 1990, and a similar one for $12.65 million in May 2001.
Edgar Degas: "Petite danseuse de quatorze ans", 1879-81
$12.3 million Sotheby's NY, November 1999 Buyer: François Pinault
One of the most expensives sculpture ever sold, if you consider the amount of money it has moved in recent years: it was sold for $11.8 million in 1996 and for $10.1 million in 1988. Later resold for $10.3 million in Christie's NY, November 2003.
Unknown artist: "The Jenkins Venus (The Barberini Venus)", c.1 st -2 nd century a.c.
$11.7 million (BP7.95 million) Christie's London , July 2002
This elegant marble Venus was at that time the most expensive antiquity ever sold, slightly surpassing the "Canford Assyrian relief", an impressive Assyrian relief sold at Christie's London in 1994
Antonio Canova: "The three graces", 1814-17
$11.5 million (BP7.5 million) Private sale, 1994 Buyer: Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Gallery of Scotland
Perhaps not the most expensive, but arguably the most important sculpture ever sold, at least in recent times. Canova's masterwork was purchased jointly by Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Gallery of Scotland.
Henri Matisse: " Reclining Nude I (Dawn)", 1907
$10.4 million Phillips, May 2001
While Matisse is best known for his colorful paintings, he also made great achievements in sculpture, and this "Reclining nude" is one of his best examples.
Adriaen de Vries: "Dancing faun", c.1610
$10.4 million (BP6.8 million) Sotheby's, December 1989
This extremely important piece was rediscovered by Cyril Humpris, who bought it from a couple who considered it to be an ordinary garden sculpture.