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5 Most Expensive Photographs Ever Sold

5 Most Expensive Photographs Ever Sold

How much can a photograph cost? A photo produced by a single click of finger and moderately manipulated on the computer may definitely raise the question of whether it is a legitimately expensive actionable art or a mass market affordable item. Going back to the history of art, sculptures and paintings such as Interchange  by Willem de Kooning were sold for tremendous amount of money (Interchange was sold in 2015 for $300 million). But can the same insane price be applied on the photograph, another still art that was never touched by a brush or human hand?

It turns out it can.

While we are not talking hundreds of millions, there tens of photographs that were sold for a million dollars or more. Let us tell you about 5 most expensive photographs ever sold.

 

Andreas Gursky – Rhein II (1999)

Sold for $4,338,500

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Andreas Gursky, German visual artist produced Rhein II in 1999 depicting the River Rhine. It si called “II” because it was a second and the largest of a set of six photographs created. Minimalistic, geometrically defined with straight horizontal lines across the field of view, this image was digitally edited to exclude dog-walkers and a factory building.  Justifying this manipulation of the image, 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.”

The print was sold by auction at Christie’s New York on 8 November 2011  for $4,338,500 by the anonymous buyer.

 

 

Richard Prince – Spiritual America (1981)

Sold For $3,973,000

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“Spiritual America is arguably Richard Prince’s best-known and most audacious act of appropriation. Alongside his early re-photographed magazine advertisements, this image did much to establish Prince’s reputation as an agent provocateur of the art world, whose practice examines notions of artistic subjectivity and originality while casting doubt on the authority of photographic images. Both the suggestive image of a young Brooke Shields and the work’s title have been taken from the public domain and re-presented to the viewer as an object for contemplation and critique. Prince has, in Marcel Duchamp’s words, “created a new thought for that object” by dislocating the image from its original context and enlisting it into his own conceptual program.

The title Spiritual America comes from Alfred Stieglitz’s 1923 photograph of a gelded horse’s hindquarters–a famously ironic commentary on America’s culturally repressed society. Stieglitz, the father of modernist photography, would likely have been outraged by Prince’s appropriation of the present image as he believed in the purity of high culture and claimed a value for photography as a revealer of truths.” Read more here.

The print was sold by auction at Christie’s New York on May 12, 2014 for $3,973,000.

 

Cindy Sherman – Untitled #96 (1981)

Sold For $3,890,500

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“Untitled #96 is the iconic masterpiece from Cindy Sherman’s celebrated Centerfolds series. The artist’s third series and the second to ever employ color, the associated pictures are widely acknowledged to be Sherman’s most accomplished, with editions housed in the Museum of Modern Art New York; currently on view in the artist’s major retrospective, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam and the present work from the Akron Art Museum. Created on a scale of two by four feet, they are credited with launching large-format photography as a high-art form. The Akron Art Museum was instrumental in this monumental shift as an early sponsor of Sherman’s art. One of the first public institutions to collect Sherman’s work, the museum acquired Untitled #96, the most-sought after image from the series, alongside her other seminal Untitled #93 (Black Sheets) directly from Metro Pictures, New York in 1981. It marked the beginning of a longstanding commitment and fruitful relationship with the artist; one which would see the Akron Art Museum organize her first major exhibition in 1984 that later travelled to the Walker Art Center and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

In Untitled #96, perhaps the most ‘story-telling’ of the pictures, Sherman elaborated the scenario quite simply: “I was thinking of a young girl who may have been cleaning the kitchen for her mother and who ripped something out of the newspaper, something asking ‘Are you lonely?’ or ‘Do you want to be friends?’ or ‘Do you want to go on a vacation?’ She’s cleaning the floor, she rips this out and she’s thinking about it” (C. Sherman quoted in P. Schjeldahl, Cindy Sherman, exh. cat., Akron Art Museum, 1987, p. 11).” Read more here.

The print was sold by auction at Christie’s New York in May 2011 for $3,890,500.

 

 

 

Gilbert & George –  To Her Majesty (1973)

Sold For $3,765,276

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“Executed in 1973, To Her Majesty belongs to an early series of photographic works created by the self-proclaimed ‘living-sculptures’ Gilbert & George. As with all the works in the Drinking Sculpturesseries, it consists of a group of black and white images commemorating evenings of drunkenness undertaken by the inseparable duo during a prolonged period of drinking bouts in the early 1970s. Gilbert & George inaugurated this series on their return to England following their spectacular success in both Europe and America with their work The Singing Sculpture, in which the artists had performed Flanagan and Allen’s vaudeville standard ‘Underneath the Arches’ to enthralled crowds of art world spectators. Having established their joint persona as an evolving work of art, Gilbert & George effectively brought Josef Beuys’ utopian vision of a social sculpture and a future where everyone is an artist to its logical conclusion.

Despite the success of their live performances, Gilbert & George ultimately found the experience limiting and began to create pictures as a means of charting the progress of their lives and extending the idea of living sculpture without requiring their physical presence. The drinking series was motivated, however, by destructive, rather than creative urges.” Read more here.

The print was sold by auction at Christie’s New York in on June 30, 2008 for $3,765,276.

 

 

Jeff Wall – Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) (1992)

Sold For $3,666,500

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Dead Troops Talk (A Vision after an Ambush of a Red Army Patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, Winter 1986) is a monumental, glowing image by Jeff Wall. Created in 1992, this tableau of the dead rising up and conversing during the Soviet-Afghan War is one of the most recognized and written-about of all Wall’s works. In this image, Russian soldiers are shown sporting wounds that would not look out of place in a slasher flick, with dismembered limbs and cavities in their heads; a foot is even shown having been blasted off its owner and lodged behind a rock. This is the shell casing-strewn fog of war, yet is an image of aftermath, with the victorious Mujahedin shown picking through the loot. Unbeknownst to them, conversation has broken out among the troops, many of whom appear to be comparing notes, some of them humorously, in a deliberately traumatic and distorted resurrection.

Wall explained that the inception of Dead Troops Talk came from out of the blue: “I had a sudden notion of a dialogue of the dead, coming from I don’t know where. It had nothing to do with the Afghan war, but the subjects needed to be soldiers because it seemed important that they would have died in an official capacity, that would surely give them something to talk about… At the time I was thinking about it, the Afghan war was coming to an end” (J. Wall, quoted in C. Burnett, Jeff Wall, exh. cat., London, 2005, p. 59). Read more here.

The print was sold by auction at Christie’s New York in on May 8, 2012 for $3,666,500.

 

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