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Top 14 Pictures Sold for over $1 Million Dollars

Marilyn Monroe

The current record price for a painting was paid for a Jackson Pollock work titled No. 5 1948. It was sold for US$140 million in 2006. However, it should be mentioned that a painting in The Card Players series by Paul Cezanne is rumored to have been sold by a private collector for over $250 million in 2011. The highest selling sculpture in history is L'Homme qui marche I (1961) by Alberto Giacometti. In 2010, one of the sculptures in the series was sold at Sotheby's London auction for $104.3 million.

In 1825, French inventor Nicephore Niepce produced the world's first known photograph. Since that time a large number of photojournalists have turned photography into an art form. As we enter the 21st century, old pictures are becoming rare and highly valued. Since 2010, eight separate photographs have sold at auction for over $1 million. A new image was also crowned the most valuable photograph in history. This article will examine 14 pictures that have been sold for $1 million dollars.

14. Peter Lik - One (2010)
Price: $1,000,000

Peter Lik One

Peter Lik is a self-taught Australian landscape photographer. While traveling in Alaska in 1984, Lik began to experiment with panoramic cameras. He is known for his limited editions and his work has been compared to that of legendary photographer Ansel Adams. Lik is regarded as an adventurer as well as a photographer due to the risks he will take to get "the shot." In 2010, Peter sold his first $1 million dollar photograph titled One. The shot was taken just after dawn on the banks of the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire and resembles an impressionist painting.

Peter named the picture One because it was a fleeting, singular opportunity. He says that he felt an oneness with the moment and with nature. Peter hit the shutter just once and made only one print of the image, which is why it is so valuable. "I will never forget this morning for the rest of my life," says Peter. "It was calm, and the scent of the fall forest filled my lungs. The mist cleared, and a magical reflection in the river briefly appeared, white birch trees, black trunks, and a kaleidoscope of foliage combining to reveal an illusion of three dimensions."

13. Edward Weston - Nautilus (1927)
Price: $1,082,500

Edward Weston Nautilus

Edward Weston was a 20th century American photographer. He has been called "one of the most innovative and influential American photographers of all time." Over the course of his forty-year career Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of subjects, including landscapes, nudes, portraits, genre scenes, and even whimsical parodies. In 1927, Weston met Canadian painter Henrietta Shore and was intrigued by her large paintings of sea shells. He borrowed several shells from her, thinking he might find some inspiration for a new still life series.

Over the next few weeks Weston explored many different kinds of shell and background combinations. In his log of photographs taken in 1927, he listed fourteen negatives of shells. One of these, simply called Nautilus (or Shell) became one of his most famous images. Weston is known to have made at least twenty-eight prints of this image, more than any other shell photo. In April 2010, a print of Edward Weston's Nautilus sold at Sotheby's New York auction for $1,082,500.

12. Richard Avedon - Dovima with elephants (1955)
Price: $1,151,976

Richard Avedon Dovima with Elephants

Richard Avedon was an American photographer. "His fashion and portrait photographs helped define America's image of style, beauty, and culture for the last half of the 20th century." In the 1950s, Dovima was a popular model that was discovered on a sidewalk in New York. She worked closely with Richard Avedon, whose photograph of her in a floor-length black evening gown with circus elephants titled Dovima with the Elephants has become an icon. It was taken at the Cirque d'hiver, Paris, in August 1955. The gown in the picture was the first evening dress designed for Christian Dior by his new assistant, Yves Saint-Laurent. In November 2010, Avedon's image titled Dovima with elephants sold at Christie's Paris auction for $1,151,976.

11. Richard Prince - Untitled (Cowboy) (1989)
Price: $1,248,000

Richard Prince Cowboy

Richard Prince is an American painter and photographer. Starting in 1977, Prince began to photograph old pictures which previously appeared in the New York Times. This process of re-photographing continued into 1983, when his work featured Garry Gross's photo of Brooke Shields at the age of ten, standing in a bathtub. The Brooke Shields nude shot is one of the most controversial images in history. In 2005, at Christie's New York auction house Richard Prince's image named Untitled (Cowboy) sold for $ 1,248,000. The picture is a re-photograph of an image taken by Sam Abell and appropriated from a cigarette advertisement. It was the first re-photograph to raise more than $1 million at auction.

10. Alfred Stieglitz - Georgia O'Keeffe Nude (1919)
Price: $1,360,000

Alfred Stieglitz O'Keeffe Nude

Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer who was instrumental in making photography an accepted art form. He was married to painter Georgia O'Keeffe. In 2006, Sotheby's auction in New York sold a collection of Alfred Stieglitz images of Georgia O'Keeffe. One picture titled Hands sold for $1.47 million, while a second picture of O'Keeffe nude sold for $1.36 million. The nude image of Georgia O'Keeffe remains the 10th highest selling photograph.

9. Alfred Stieglitz - Georgia O'Keeffe Hands (1919)
Price: $1,470,000

Alfred Stieglitz O'Keeffe Hands

Eight of the nine highest prices ever paid at auction for Alfred Stieglitz photographs are images of Georgia O'Keeffe. The highest-priced photograph is a 1919 palladium print of Georgia O'Keeffe titled Hands, it realized US$1.47 million at Sotheby's New York auction in February 2006.

8. Edward Weston - Nude (1925)
Price: $1,609,000

Edward Weston Nude 1925

In 1920, Edward Weston began photographing nude models. He started with his wife Flora and their children, but soon took at least three nude studies. In April of 2008, one of Weston's nude images from 1925 sold for $1,609,000 at Sotheby's New York auction. It remains the 8th most expensive photograph ever sold.

7. Dmitry Medvedev - Tobolsk Kremlin (2009)
Price: $1,750,000

Dmitry Medvedev Tobolsk

The Tobolsk Kremlin is the sole stone Kremlin in Siberia. A Kremlin is major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. The Tobolsk Kremlin is located in Tobolsk, Tyumen Oblast, Russia. In 2009, Dmitry Medvedev, who is the third President of the Russian Federation, captured a great picture of the Tobolsk Kremlin. In January of 2010, a print of the photo sold at auction for $1,750,000.

6. Unknown photographer - Billy the Kid (1879-80)
Price: $2,300,000

Billy the Kid

William H. Bonney (Billy the Kid) was a 19th-century American gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War and became a frontier outlaw in the West. According to legend, he killed 21 men, but he is generally accepted to have killed between four and nine. Only one photograph of Billy the Kid exists. It was taken by an unknown photographer in late 1879 or early 1880. The image is a 2x3 inch (5.08x7.62 cm) ferrotype (tintype) picture. Tintype is a photo made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal that is blackened by painting and lacquering. It was first described in the 1850s and this type of photography was extremely resilient. It doesn't need drying and can be produced in only a few minutes.

After Billy the Kid's death, Dan Dedrick, one of Billy's rustler friends, kept the picture and passed it down to his family. The ferrotype has appeared in several copied forms before the original was made public in the mid 1980s. The image of Bonney was sold at auction on June 25, 2011, in a three-day Western show. It was purchased for $2.3 million dollars, some six times the estimate. The picture became the most expensive item ever sold at Brian Lebel's Annual Old West Show & Auction. It remains the 6th most expensive photograph ever sold.

5. Cindy Sherman - Untitled #153 (1985)
Price: $2,700,000

Cindy Sherman Untitled 153

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. Sherman has sought to raise challenging and important questions about the representation of women in society, the media, and the nature of the creation of art. To create her photographs, Sherman shoots alone in her studio, assuming multiple roles as author, director, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe mistress, and, of course, the model. She describes her process as intuitive, and she responds to elements of a setting such as light, mood, location, and costume, and will continue to change external elements until she finds what she wants.

In 2010, Sherman's nearly six foot tall chromogenic color print of Untitled #153 sold by Phillips de Pury & Company for a record $2.7 million. Today the picture is the 5th highest selling photo in history. The image features Cindy Sherman as a mud caked corpse. It was included in her set of pictures titled "fairy tales, " where Sherman combines prosthetic and artificial body parts along with elaborate make-up to transform herself into embodiments of horror and nightmare. The images don't reference specific fairy tales, but rather common motifs found in fairy tales, such as witches, monsters, giants, murders, and abductions.

4. Edward Steichen - The Pond-Moonlight (1904)
Price: $2,928,000

Edward Steichen Pond-Moonlight

The Pond-Moonlight is a pictorialist photograph by Edward Steichen. It was made in 1904 in Mamaroneck, New York, near the home of Steichen's friend Charles Caffin. The photograph shows a forest across a pond, with part of the moon appearing over the horizon in a gap of the trees. The image was created using an early style, predating the first widespread color photography technique (the 1907 autochrome). Steichen created the impression of color by manually applying layers of light-sensitive gums to the paper.

Only three known versions of The Pond-Moonlight are still in existence and due to the hand-layering of the gums, each is unique. In February 2006, an original print of The Pond-Moonlight sold for what was then the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction, U.S. $2.9 million. Today, the image stands as the 4th highest selling picture in history. The two other versions of The Pond-Moonlight are held in museum collections. The extraordinary sale price for a print is attributed to its one-of-a-kind character and rarity.

3. Andreas Gursky - 99 Cent II Diptychon (2001)
Price: $3,346,456

Andreas 99 Cent II Diptychon

99 Cent II Diptychon is a two part photograph made by German visual artist Andreas Gursky. The work depicts the inside of a supermarket with numerous aisles and stacked goods, which results in a colorful scene. The picture is digitally altered to reduce perspective. It is a chromogenic color print or c-print and it is a two part work, also called a diptych. Gursky made 6 sets of the image and mounted the prints on acrylic glass. All of the pictures have a size of 207 by 337 centimeters (6.79-11.06 ft).

Gursky has called the work one of his favorite, as visually he is drawn to large, anonymous, man-made space, such as high-rise facades at night, office lobbies, stock exchanges, and the interiors of big box retailers. On February 7, 2007, 99 Cent II Diptychon sold at Sotheby auction house for a price of US$3.34 million, making the picture the 3rd most expensive in history. Another auction in New York in May 2006 fetched $2.25 million for a second print, and a third print sold for $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery.

2. Cindy Sherman - Untitled #96 (1981)
Price: $3,890,500

Cindy Sherman Untitled 96

In 1981, Cindy Sherman created a photograph series titled Centerfolds/Horizontals, which is inspired by models in fashion and pornographic magazines. The images portray young women in various roles, from a sultry seductress to a frightened and vulnerable victim. All of the photographs were captured in Sherman's traditional style. She was the photographer, make-up artist, and model. The collection has become some of Sherman's most famous work. In 2011, a print of Untitled #96, which depicts Cindy as a lovelorn woman clutching a personal ad while lying on a kitchen floor, fetched $3.89 million at Christie's, making it the second most expensive photograph of all time. In 2012, the Museum of Modern Art will mount "Cindy Sherman," a show that will chronicle Sherman's work from the mid-1970s on and include more than 170 photographs.

1. Andreas Gursky - Rhein II (1999)
Price: $4,338,500

Andreas Gursky Rhein II

Rhein II is a photograph made by German visual artist Andreas Gursky in 1999. Gursky has become famous for his architecture and landscape color photographs. The print was produced in a set of six pictures that depict the River Rhine. In the image, the Rhine flows horizontally across the field of view, between green fields, and under an overcast sky. Some details of the original picture were removed by Gursky, including a group of dog-walkers and a factory building. Justifying this manipulation Gursky said "Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river."

To accomplish his vision Gursky made a very large chromogenic color print of the image and mounted it onto acrylic glass. He then placed the masterpiece in a frame. The image itself measures 73 by 143 inches (190 x 360 cm), whilst the frame measures 81 by 151 inches (210 x 380 cm). The print was sold at Christie's New York on November 8, 2011, for $4,338,500, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. The identity of the buyer has not been revealed.


The next three best selling photographs in history were taken by Eugene Atget, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Ansel Adams. In April 2010, Christie's New York auction sold Joueur d'Orgue (1898-1899) by French photographer Eugene Atget for $686,500. In October 2006, Christie's New York auction sold a picture of Andy Warhol (1987) by Robert Mapplethorpe for $643,200. In 2006, Sotheby's New York auction sold a print titled Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1948) by Ansel Adams for $609,600.

Eugene Atget - Joueur d'Orgue

Eugene Atget Joueur

Robert Mapplethorpe - Andy Warhol

Robert Mapplethorpe Warhol 1987

Ansel Adams - Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Ansel Adams New Mexico Moonrise

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Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved       Posted January 20, 2012