Top Ten Most Expensive Photographs of All Time

The value that collectors assign to the items that they seek can be both astronomical and shocking. They use several criteria to determine exactly how much a photograph is worth, such as the condition of the piece, the worth of similar works, and demand for the photo and the photographers other works.  Going to the highest bidder at the world’s most prestigious auction houses, the following photographs are, to date, the most expensive of all time.  All prices are listed in US Dollars.

10-Alfred Stieglitz Price – $1,470,000

Georgia O’Keeffe (Hands) (1919) –Alfred StieglitzSource One of Stieglitz’s portraits of artist Georgia O’Keefe, to whom he was also married, this piece sold in February 2006 at Sotheby’s New York auction.

9-Edward Weston Price – $1,609,000

Nude (1925)hb_2005.100.142Source Taken by a master of 20th century photography, Weston’s portrait of lover Margrethe Mather paved the way for his later nude studies.  This piece sold in April 2008, also at Sotheby’s.

8-Dmitry Medvedev Price – $1,750,000

Tobolsk Kremlin (2009)Dmitry MedvedevSource The tenth and current Prime Minister of Russia snapped this portrait of the famous fortification of Tobolsk, which commemorates a state protected historical monument.  It sold in at a charity auction in January 2010 in Saint Petersburg.

7-Unknown Photographer Price – $2,300,000

Billy the Kid (1879–80)Unknown PhotographerSource No one knows who took this tin-type photograph of the infamous shootist, but it is certain that neither the photographer nor the outlaw would have predicted that the portrait would have sold for so much in June 2011, at the Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auction, over a hundred years after the picture had been taken.

6-Cindy Sherman- Price – $2,700,000

Untitled #153 (1985)Cindy ShermanSource Sherman’s controversial self-portrait as a mud-caked corpse is larger than life in more than ways than one.  The nearly six foot high photograph sold in November 2010 at Phillips de Pury& Co. in New York.

5-Edward Steichen -Price – $2,928,000

The Pond-MoonlightEdward SteichenSource Due to the technique used to create this early color photograph, each of the three prints in existence is unique.  This portrait of a forest across the water was created by manually applying light-sensitive gums, and sold in February 2006 at Sotheby’s.

4-Andreas Gurskyr Price – $3,346,456

99 Cent II Diptychon (2001)Andreas GurskySource While the original sold in February 2007 at Sotheby’s London auction, a second print of 99 Cent II Diptychon sold for $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery, and a third print sold for $2.25 million at Sotheby’s in May 2006.  All depict the interior of a supermarket in detail.

3-Jeff Wall – Price – $3,666,500

Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) (1992)Jeff WallSource The late Susan Sontag heaped praise on this photograph in her final bookRegarding the Pain of Others.  It sold in May 8, 2012 at Christie’s New York.

2-Cindy Sherman – Price – $3,890,500

Untitled #96 (1981)Cindy ShermanSource One of Sherman’sCenterfolds/Horizons series, a self-portrait as a winsome teenager, sold in May 2011 at Christie’s New York.  A seventh print of Untitled #96 sold for $2.88 million at Christie’s in May 2012.

1-Andreas Gursky Price – $4,338,500

– Rhein II (1999)-Andreas GurskySource These photographs all carry undeniable historical significance.  One wonders what will distinguish the photographs that will displace these ten in the future.

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