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Most expensive photographs ever sold

Posted on December 22, 2019 - By Sandrine Hermand-Grisel
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Photography's popularity is still undeniable, hence all the photo fairs that you can discover around the world. Nevertheless it seems that the most expensive photographs are still sold at auction. Here is an updated list with the most expensive photographs that were ever sold (at least to this date).
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Peter Lik: Phantom
Peter Lik: Phantom
Peter Lik: Phantom
Peter Lik: Phantom
The most expensive photo in history as of December 2014 is $6.5 million! The work of Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik, Phantom is a black-and-white shot of Arizona's Antelope Canyon, a piercing beam of sunlight appearing like a ghostly figure in a cavernous space. It was bought on November by a private collector but this sale raises some concern. Is it really worth it? If you have visited Antelope Canyon, you would know that your guide makes every tourist stop at the exact same spot every step of the visit so that everyone has exactly the same photo! The guide throws sand to get phantom shapes. If each photographer that visited Antelope Canyon sells his work will it reach also this price? How much will be worth the Grand Canyon?

Claims of the sale have never been proven, and the buyer has not come forward, though a lawyer claiming to represent the buyer claims that the deal was real
Andreas Gursky: Rhein II (1999)
Andreas Gursky: Rhein II (1999)
Andreas Gursky: Rhein II (1999)
Andreas Gursky: Rhein II (1999)
$4,338,500
On November 8, 2011 this photograph by Andreas Gursky was sold for $4,338,500 at Christie's in New York City. Francis Outred, Head of Christie's Post War and Contemporary Art Department in Europe, said it was because of the size and techniquebut also because there are only 6 (Three are in public museums (Moma, Tate, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich), one is with a private museum (Glenstone, Potomac) and only two are left in private collections includ
Richard Prince: Spiritual America (1983)
Richard Prince: Spiritual America (1983)
Richard Prince: Spiritual America (1983)
Richard Prince: Spiritual America (1983)
$3,973,000
The Ektacolor print was executed in 1983 and it was sold at Christies in New York $3,973,000 on May 12, 2014. It is a "rephotograph" from Garry Gross's photo of Brooke Shields at the age of ten which is at the center of many controversies. Prince didn't take the original photo himself, but rather took a picture of a picture. The original appeared in the softcore porn magazine Sugar 'n' Spice, and was commissioned by Shields' mother in an effort to boost her career from a young age.
Cindy Sherman: Untitled #96 (1981)
Cindy Sherman: Untitled #96 (1981)
Cindy Sherman: Untitled #96 (1981)
Cindy Sherman: Untitled #96 (1981)
$3,890,500
In May 2011, at Christie's in New York, this photograph by Cindy Sherman (a self-portrait as always) was sold for $3,890,500! This image was taken when she was 27 for the magazine Artforum which in fact never published it! A seventh print of the same image was also sold in May 2012 for $2.88 million. Cindy Sherman had a major solo exhibition at MOMA and SFMOMA in 2012 which probably helped.
To Her Majesty, by Gilbert & George (1973)
To Her Majesty, by Gilbert & George (1973)
To Her Majesty, by Gilbert & George (1973)
To Her Majesty, by Gilbert & George (1973)
$3,767,960
On June 30, 2008 this photograph by Gilbert & George was sold for $3,767,960 at Christie's in London, UK. Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore and their "Art for All" are very popular in Great Britain and work in several medias. To Her Majesty, is part of the 13 pair's 'Modern Rubish' picture series.
Richard Prince: Untitled (cowboys)
Richard Prince: Untitled (cowboys)
Richard Prince: Untitled (cowboys)
Richard Prince: Untitled (cowboys)
$3,749,000
On May 12, 2014 another photograph by Richard Prince Untitled (Cowboy) was bought was $3,749,000 at Christie's auction in NYC. When you know that he also sold one of his painting over $8.5M we can say it was a good day for him... Ektacolor print 58 5/8 x 39 in. (149 x 99 cm.) Executed in 1998. This work is the artist's proof aside from an edition of two.
Jeff Wall: Dead Troops Talk (1992)
Jeff Wall: Dead Troops Talk (1992)
Jeff Wall: Dead Troops Talk (1992)
Jeff Wall: Dead Troops Talk (1992)
$3,666,500
(A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986) The photograph's great attention to detail, the large scale and the direct allusion to 19th century historical painting are probably some of the reasons why it was sold for $3,666,500 in May 2012 at Christie's in New York. At first glance it looks like a genuine war scene, but it has actually been staged in a studio with actors.
Richard Prince: Untitled (2001-2002)
Richard Prince: Untitled (2001-2002)
Richard Prince: Untitled (2001-2002)
Richard Prince: Untitled (2001-2002)
$3,401,000
Signed, dated 2001-02 and inscribed ap on a label affixed to the reverse, ektachrome print,100 x 66 in. 254 x 169 cm. Executed in 2001-2002, this work is from an edition of 2 plus one artist's proof. Sold in November of 2007 at Sotheby's New York.
Andreas Gursky: 99 Cent II, Diptych, 2001
Andreas Gursky: 99 Cent II, Diptych, 2001
Andreas Gursky: 99 Cent II, Diptych, 2001
Andreas Gursky: 99 Cent II, Diptych, 2001
$3,346,456
Andreas Gursky was well inspired when he took this picture. It was sold $2.25 million at Sotheby's in May 2006, $2.48 million in November 2006 at a New York gallery and $3,346,456 in February 2007 at Sotheby's in London! We don't know at price it will be sold next time!
Chicago Board of Trade III (1999-2000)
Chicago Board of Trade III (1999-2000)
Chicago Board of Trade III (1999-2000)
Chicago Board of Trade III (1999-2000)
$3,298,755
Once again Andreas Gursky sold one of the world's most expensive photographs in 2013 at Sotheby's in London on June 26, 2013. This image taken in 2000 represents the trading floor of the Board of Trade in Chicago. Gursky double exposed some areas to further enhance the impression of movement and manipulated the colors to make them more vivid.
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