Old Masterpieces Which Were Sold in 21th Century

Great art is priceless, most sought after, and highly treasured the world over! And one cannot imagine how much art-loving billionaires spend on acquiring rare masterpieces to add to their collections!

From the sale of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait Of Adele Bloch Bauer I to Jackson Pollock’s No.5, 1948, the art world has seen some exorbitantly priced deals in the past decades that value these brilliant artworks in millions! 

So which old masterpieces left the sellers and agents full to the brim in the pockets? And who were the fortunate ones to get their hands on the greatest art pieces sold in recent times? Let’s take a look at some of the old masterpieces sold in the 21st Century. 

Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I – Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt art fetched a whopping $135 Million when it was sold by its owner Maria Altmann to Ronal Lauder in 2006 for his Neue Galerie in New York City. Also known as the Woman in Gold, this spectacular painting done in his golden phase by Gustav Klimt(1862-1918) was completed in 1907 and holds a very interesting story.

It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, the husband of Adele who had made a great fortune in banking and sugar production. However, after the annexation of Austria by Germany, Ferdinand’s art collection was seized by the Nazis like the properties of most other affluent Jews in the country. 

Altmann, the niece of Ferdinand led a seven-year legal battle against the Galerie Belvedere, finally reclaiming her right over the painting and selling it in the same year. At the time it was sold it set the record price that any painting had ever fetched in the art world! 

Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer II – Gustav Klimt

Adele Bloch Bauer is said to be the only sitter to sit twice for Gustav Klimt. Her husband Ferdinand, being a great patron of the artist commissioned a second portrait of his wife, these masterpieces forever immortalizing the lady through the artist’s great work!

Like the first portrait, this masterpiece too was returned to Altman upon winning the legal battle against the Galerie Belvedere who held the painting in its possession since it was confiscated by the Nazis in World War 2. The portrait was then auctioned by Altman in 2006 for $88 million at Christie’s auction house, making it the third-highest priced painting at the time. 

No.5, 1948 – Jackson Pollock

Image Source: Wikipedia

One of the most lucrative art sales in recent times has been the sale of Jackson Pollock’s No.5, 1948 at a staggering $140 Million in 2006. This painting was originally sold to Alfonso Ossorio in 1949 and then by him to Samuel Irving Newhouse and put on display at the Museum of Modern Art. It was then sold to David Geffen and then allegedly to David Martinez in 2006. 

The American painter Pollock (1912-1956), is considered one of the leading figures in the abstract expressionist movement that swept the art world in the late 1940s. This particular painting is said to have been badly damaged in transport when it was bought by Ossorio from the artist himself. 

It was then repaired by Pollock but the new owner is said to have found a flaw in the repaired version. Therefore, Pollock repainted the entire piece and gave a brand new painting to Ossorio which is the No.5, 1948 that we see today. 

Garcon A La Pipe – Pablo Picasso

 Image Source: Wikiart

One of the early works of Pablo Picasso painted in 1905 at the age of 24 fetched $104.2 million in 2004 leaving many in the art world utterly surprised. This painting from Picasso’s Rose Period is not the best of his works and yet has made it a treasure to possess since it was painted by such a great artist. 

It was first bought by John Whitney in 1950 for $30000 and then auctioned for $104.2 million at the Sotheby’s auction in New York City in 2004. The present owner of this painting is unknown but it is speculated that it was bought by Guido Barilla, of the Barilla Group to add to his already brilliant art collection!

Woman III – William de Kooning

Image Source: Wikipedia

Sold for a whopping $137.5 million in 2006, by David Geffen to Steven Cohen, has made Woman III(1953) the second most expensive painting to be ever sold! This painting too has its own story and how it finally landed in America. 

It was owned by the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art from the late ‘70s to 1994. However, after the revolution in 1979, it was no longer on display due to the new strict rules brought forth by the government.

But this great masterpiece would not lie hidden forever and was discretely traded by Thomas Ammann Fine Art to David Geffen in 1994 in exchange for an ancient 16th Century Persian manuscript, Tahmasbi Shahnameh thus making its entry back into the art world! 


While not all of us can afford the originals of the exceptional paintings by artists, we can always have them recreated for us in the most authentic technique and style so that we too can enjoy the feeling that fills the soul when observing artworks as great as these!  

Adrianna Tori

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