Spencer Platt—Getty Images
By Catherine Dunn
February 28, 2014

It was a triptych by the late Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon that blew away the art world last fall, fetching a record $142.4 million for any work when sold at a Christie’s auction. Earlier this month, Christie’s and rival Sotheby’s (BID) generated more record sales for works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Camille Pissarro. Here, we take a look at the high-priced art sales that have made history over the past 50 years.


1961 Parke-Bernet Galleries (later acquired by Sotheby’s) sells Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $2.3 million, at the time a record for any painting sold at auction.


1970 Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Juan de Pareja sells for $5.5 million to the art dealer Alec Wildenstein and is acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art the following year.

Auction house: Christie’s


1985 Vincent van Gogh’s Landscape With Rising Sun sells for $9.9 million, a record at the time for any Impressionist work.

Auction house: Sotheby’s


1987 Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises sells for $53.9 million, blowing away the previous Van Gogh record reached just two years earlier and setting a new world record for a painting sold at auction.

Auction house: Sotheby’s


1989 Jacopo Pontormo’s Portrait of a Halberdier is sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum for $35.2 million, an auction record for a painting by an Old Master.

Auction house: Christie’s


1990 Pierre-August Renoir’s Au Moulin de la Galette sells for $78.1 million — to this day, an all-time record for the artist’s paintings at auction.

Auction house: Sotheby’s


1990 Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet fetches $82.5 million, once again shattering the previous record.

Auction house: Christie’s


2004 Picasso’s Garçon à la Pipe sells for $104.2 million, nearly twice the previous high mark (set in 2000, at Christie’s) for a Picasso work.

Auction house: Sotheby’s


2012 Edvard Munch’s The Scream is auctioned off in New York for $119.9 million after a 12-minute bidding frenzy.

Auction house: Sotheby’s


Courtesy:

2013 Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) sells for $58.4 million, a record for a living artist.

Auction house: Christie’s


2013 Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud is sold for $142.4 million, an all-time record for a work of art sold at auction.

Auction house: Christie’s

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