The 7 Most Expensive Sculptures Ever
Sculptures are traditionally some of the most expensive items in the world of collections, with works by the masters regularly being sold for millions of pounds at auction. As a 3D model, they bring the subject matter to life in a way which is impossible for other popular forms of art. This, combined with the incredible level of craftsmanship and skill required to create the pieces serve to make them incredibly popular. But just how much can you pay for one?
What are the most expensive sculptures ever?
7 – Nu de dos, 4 état (Back IV) - $48.8m
Back IV is the fourth and final piece in The Back Series by legendary artist Henri Matisse. Matisse worked on the series between 1909 and 1930, and they are his largest sculptures by far.
The 2010 auction including the Back IV was the first time a piece from this set had ever been sold at auction, with all other pieces located at museums around the world. Naturally, this ensured a high-level of interest among collectors, with auctioneers estimating a sale price of around $13 million. This was quickly surpassed as the piece eventually sold to a private buyer for $48.8 million.
6 – Grande tête mince - $53.3m
Sculpted by the famous Alberto Giacometti, a Swiss sculptor whose name you will soon be very familiar with, this bronze sculpture sold for $53.3 million in a 2010 auction.
Literally translated as ‘Large thin head’, the piece was based on either Alberto or his brother, Diego. Alberto’s distorted style is very much in evidence in the piece, with the head being extremely narrow at the front yet full and extremely detailed in profile view. This creates an extremely striking, contradictory piece which sold for well above the estimated $35 million to become one of the most expensive sculptures ever.
5 – Guennol Lioness - $57.2m
The Guennol Lioness is comfortably the oldest sculpture on our list and the only one whose sculptor we do not know. Discovered near Baghdad, Iraq, the 5,000-year-old Mesopotamian statue was the most expensive sculpture ever at the time of its 2007 sale.
Alongside the fact that it is an incredible piece of art, the sculpture also holds a lot of cultural importance owing to the time it was created. Dating back to the time of the first known use of the wheel, the development of cuneiform writing and the emergence of the first cities, the Lioness is an important historical artifact which could tell an incredible story.
4 – Balloon Dog (Orange) - $58.4m
Created by Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog is the most expensive sculpture ever sold by a living artist. The controversial American is well-known for creating sculptures which reproduce banal objects, with Balloon Dog being part of his most well-known and divisive series.
The sculpture is a 3-metre tall, stainless steel, mirror finished sculpture of a balloon dog, created as part of his ‘Celebration’ series, which included a range of similar pieces including Valentine hearts, diamonds, and tulips. Sold in 2013 to a private collector.
3 – Tête - $59.5m
Tête is a limestone sculpture created by Italian sculptor Amedeo Modigliani between 1910 and 1912. Standing at over 2ft tall, the sculpture of a head is inspired by the geometric designs seen in African sculpture. This combination of African and European influences served to create a striking, unique piece which quickly captured the imagination of collectors.
Estimated to sell for $4-6 million, 20 bidders at the 2010 auction quickly pushed the price to way beyond this, quickly making it the most expensive work of art sold in France and the third most expensive sculpture of all-time.
2 – L’homme qui marche I - $104.3m
Alberto Giacometti’s second appearance in the list serves to take the price into the stratosphere, breaking the $100 million barrier comfortably.
Literally translated to ‘The Walking Man’, this piece was initially created for a public project by the Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York. After struggling with the project, Giacometti eventually abandoned the commission, taking his unfinished work. Shortly after this he decided to cast this sculpture on bronze and exhibit it, which he did at the Venice Biennale the following year.
The Walking Man is considered to be one of Giacometti’s most important works and the pinnacle of his experimentation with the human form, becoming the most expensive sculpture in history in a 2010 auction.
1 – L’homme au doigt - $141.3m
So, what is the most expensive sculpture ever? It’s another one by the legendary Alberto Giacometti, this time with L’homme au doigt, also known as The Pointing Man.
Created in 1947 and cast in bronze, Alberto created six casts and one artists’ proof of the statue, four of which are in museums. Described as Giacometti’s “most iconic and evocative sculpture”, the auctioned piece is also believed to be the only one hand-painted by the artist, adding an additional level of rarity and expressive impact to the piece.
Selling at auction in 2015, L’homme au doigt comfortably broke the previous record set by Giacometti when it sold for $141.3 million to a private buyer.