10 of the Most Expensive Sculptures Ever Sold

Art Wise

If there is one form of art in the world that has retained its popularity since the dawn of civilization – it is the art of sculpting! And while we often hear of paintings by master artists being sold for millions of dollars, we don’t hear quite as much about sculptures. So here’s a list of the 10 most expensive sculptures ever sold!

1. L'Homme au doigt (Pointing Man) by Alberto Giacometti
L’ Homme au doigt or ‘Pointing Man’, became the most expensive sculpture ever sold when a private collector bought it for a whopping US$141.3 million in May 2015. The 1947 bronze statue is considered Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s “most iconic and evocative sculpture". Standing tall at 5 feet 10 inches, it is the only cast that has been hand painted by Giacometti.

 (Image Source: Wikipedia)

2. L'Homme Qui Marche I (Walking Man I) by Alberto Giacometti
Giacometti’s 1961 tall, spindly bronze statue, L’Homme qui marche I, of a walking man was bought by Brazilian philanthropist and socialite Lily Safra, for $104.3 million in February 2010. This statue even makes an appearance on the 100 Swiss Franc banknote! Considered a master of modern art, Giacometti is the only sculptor whose works have been sold for more than $100 million.

(Image Source: Left - aestheticreflectionsofart.blogspot.in; Right - currencyguide.eu)

3. Tête by Amedeo Modigliani
Passionate about sculpture being an act of carving, Italian sculptor Amedeo Modigliani carved Tête from a single block of limestone. It was sold for $59.5 million to a private collector in 2010. With African inspirations, the sculpture portrays a woman with backswept hair and a tribal mask, in the likeness of an ancient deity.

(Image Source: bloomberg.com)

4. Balloon Dog (Orange) by Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons is renowned for making grand replicas of banal, everyday objects. With a price tag of $58.4 million, the Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons is the most at which any sculpture from a living artist has ever sold! The orange Balloon Dog is one of six dogs made of polished stainless steel in various colours.

(Image Source: widewalls.ch) 

5. Guennol Lioness by Unknown
Discovered near Baghdad, Iraq, the Guennol Lioness is approximately 5000 years old. This Mesopotamian limestone statue depicts an anthropomorphic lioness-woman with an extremely muscular body. It has been described by Sotheby's as "one of the last known masterworks from the dawn of civilization to remain in private hands”. In 2007, it was sold to a private collector for $57.2 million, making it the most expensive antiquity ever sold.

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

6. Grande Tête Mince by Alberto Giacometti
Another Giacometti creation and the third in this list, the Grande Tête Mince was auctioned in 2010 for $53.3 million. Said to be Giacometti’s most radical work, the sculpture presents a dual vantage point – the elongated side view and the intangible frontal view. Stemming from the existential movement, the creation portrays a figure in anticipation, with parted lips, about to speak.

(Image Source: Left - sothebys.com; Right - lefildeculture.eklablog.com) 

7. Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV) by Henri Matisse
Nu de Dos is the only work from French artist Henri Matisse’s ‘Back’ series to ever be auctioned. The series, which comprises four bronzes of nude women from behind, has rarely been on display. A private collector bought the sculpture for $48.8 million in 2010.

(Image Source: christies.com)

8. Madame LR (Portrait de Mme LR) by Constantin Brâncuși
Costantin Brâncuși is renowned for his polished, smooth marble sculptures with continuous lines. However, Madame LR is an abstract wooden sculpture that features straight edges and rough surfaces, and captures the silhouette of a woman. It was sold for $37.6 million in 2009.

(Image Source: wikiart.org)

9. Tulips by Jeff Koons
Tulips is a gigantic sculpture of a bouquet of flowers, fashioned out of polished stainless steel and coated in multiple transparent colours. It belongs to Jeff Koon’s ‘Celebration’ series, and is symbolic of the generic, mass produced items found at special events. The sculpture has a sense of weightlessness which belies its actual heaviness. Tulips was bought by hotelier Steve Wynn for $33.7 million in 2012.

(Image Source: By dalbera from Paris, France, via Wikimedia Commons)

10. Reclining Figure: Festival by Henry Moore
Henry Moore’s original Reclining Figure was commissioned by the Arts Council for the Festival of Britain in 1951. It comprises of various tubular and bulbous forms, which together form an abstraction of a reclining female figure. A part of five full cast pieces made by Moore, this sculpture sold for $33.1 million at the 250th anniversary auction of Christie’s in June 2016!

(Image Source: christies.com)

*British artist Damien Hirst has claimed that his platinum cast of a skull encrusted with 8601 diamonds, titled “For the Love of God”, was sold for £50 million to a private consortium, which apparently includes himself. If true, this would be make it the third most expensive sculpture on this list. However, the sale remains contentious and unverified, and hence, not included in our list.

(Image Source: imageobjecttext.com)

We can't all possibly buy sculptures for millions of dollars, but investing in high quality handcrafted sculptures is definitely a must-do for all art lovers!  

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