The World's Most Expensive Photograph


Last week was auction week in the art world. Famous houses like Sotheby's and Christie's opened their doors to art collectors and gallery owners and set up the stage for what is most valued in the art world. One of the most exciting purchases this season, a photograph...

Last May we told you about Cindy Sherman's photo, Untitled #96, which fetched an unprecedented $3.89 million at auction. Some of you thought the image was not so impressive, that it was more about the photographer than the image itself.

Untitled #96 by Cindy Sherman via Pop Photo

This time, we present you “Rhein II” by Andreas Gursky. Which sold last week for an amazing $4.3 Million at auction. Take a moment to look at the picture, “with its vast panorama, Rhein II invites the viewer to immerse oneself in the image, the eye being greeted by an expanse of green from both directions, left and right. The picture rapidly dissolves from a figurative landscape into an abstract composition…” As quoted from the lot notes. Gursky has said, “There is a particular place with a view over the Rhine which has somehow always fascinated me, but it didn’t suffice for a picture as it basically constituted only part of a picture. I carried this idea for a picture around with me for a year and a half and thought about whether I ought perhaps to change my viewpoint. …”

Rein II by Andreas Gursky via Pop Photo

What do you think of the photograph? Show us the one photograph you have dedicated much time and thought to compose. Would this be your most precious picture? Leave a comment below with the link.

written by gabysalas on 2011-11-14 in #news


  1. welland
    welland ·

    One mans junk is anothers treasure. I personally wouldn't part with any money for either of these. As for Cindys if I were paying millions of $ for a photo I would at least expect a title, She couldn't even be arsed, thats how much she valued it! I see photos 100 times better than both of these on here. The Rein2 is dull colours, the sky has nothing about it, the grass is flat and lifeless. I just don't get it so I blogged

  2. welland
    welland ·… This is one of the worlds most expensive and this I like. It has something about it, some level of skill. I would like this photos, the others can do one. Sorry but this has made me angry

  3. gabysalas
    gabysalas ·

    @welland, good article on your blog. It is an interesting ground for discussion. How do you put a value on art? What makes a good photograph. Could someone else have taken the exact same picture and would it go for the same price?

  4. stratski
    stratski ·

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess. Sure, 4.3 million is a lot of money and I don't think I would ever spend that much on a work of art even if I had that kind of money. Now it's not the cheerfully saturated or color washed image we usually love here from our Xpro-ed, redscaled, expired, plastic-fantastic lomographs. Still, I can understand the attraction of Rein II. In my opinion it's not just a photograph of a bit of river, it's an abstract work of art that reminds me of the work of Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman. I can totally understand how you would hate it, (Boring! My five year old nephew could do that!) but for some reason I can keep looking at it. It's peacefull, calm, minimalistic, and yet the sky, water and grass have just enough texture to keep the image from being totaly flat.
    When I Googled Gursky I found this is by far his most minimalistic picture (well, that shows up in google images anyway). He had huge crowded pictures with gigantic office buildings, or masses of people. All of them showing actual objects that manage to form an abstract looking image. I like that. And I think it does show skill to look at an apparently 'empty' scene and register the beauty in it.
    Still, 4.3 million? Meh. You're right @gabysalas, that's at least 80% (if not more) for the name Andreas Gursky I think... But that probably goes for most (expensive) art.

  5. gabysalas
    gabysalas ·

    @stratski, I was not trying to make a point, just raise some discussion. Personally, I agree with you, art is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I choose what I like by a very strange method... I take real pleasure in eating, so when I see something that makes me think, I could eat that, then I know it fits my aesthetic. Strange, I know, maybe I am not expressing it correctly, but to each his or her own!

  6. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    The picture of the girl reaches me. The picture of the Rhein was more appreciated after the quote of the artist. I like that Gursky thought and planned this picture so I meant a lot to him.

  7. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    "It's only worth what someone is willing to pay for it" is a brutally simplified cliche. It does sort of work if you analyse it though. A ring can be made of gold, which is valuable, but only because gold is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. I know the money could be better spent on a worthwhile cause, but the capitalist in me is guiltily pleased knowing that photography could have a value that high, and that possibly, one day, any of us could accidentally add that sort of value to a piece of film and ilford paper.

    Do I like it? Yes, I like them both. If they were here without all that pomp attached to them I believe they would make the Recent Popular Photos on the homepage and I would click Like on both.

    I also happen to like @neanderthalis avatar as much as Rein II.

  8. kiwikoh
    kiwikoh ·

    Hey, check this out. ==>…

    There's already a lot of discussion on G+ about this photograph.

    Of course its involve many things to push the price of this photograph so high :The rarity, the fame of the photographer, the motive of the collector(can be investment or Interest).

    My thought is , we simply can't call this photograph "a photograph" anymore. It is a piece of art. For Andrea Gursky, photography is just a medium. Just like painting.

    That's why it worth the money.

  9. gabysalas
    gabysalas ·

    @kiwikoh, in this case, for the sake of being the devil's advocate, I would have to argue that a photographer is by definition a a person who takes photographs, either as a hobby or a profession. Photography is by definition the *art* of producing images of objects on photosensitive surfaces, therefore all photographers are artists!

  10. kiwikoh
    kiwikoh ·

    @gabysalas - Good point. I'm not try to argue here but just try to make my point clearer.

    Let say if a 3 years old kid with a pen. Drawing something with no sense on a piece of paper. Can we call that drawing an "art"? Yes, because art is subjective. Can we call the kid an artist? No, because no one understand what he draw. Nobody can claim him/herself as an artist unless he/she was recognized by others as an artist. You need somebody to appreciate your work as an "art" before it can truly become an "art". Otherwise, it just a piece paper with some random lines - or any other things you want to call it.

    Just happen that Andreas Gursky's work was appreciated by a group of rich and famous. :)

  11. gabysalas
    gabysalas ·

    @kiwikoh, I know what you were trying to say, but I still think that is something that can be argued to death, take for example Monkey paintings, popular in the 60's ( I think it is safe to say the monkeys had no sense of what they were putting down, still considered art. So are the monkeys artists? This is just for the sake of argument. What are your thoughts?

  12. kiwikoh
    kiwikoh ·

    @gabysalas, My thought is...

    Nope, It just happen to create an accidental art out of some random stroke.

    Yup, why not? It looks like an art to me.

    Art is subjective. Hence, there is no point to argue about it.

    So, are the monkeys artists?

    I don't know, but I think humans are monkeys. XD

  13. robotmonkey1996
    robotmonkey1996 ·

    Anyone want it for 4.3 million less? Right click, copy, paste, print.

  14. fabo
    fabo ·

    I could make a similar photograph for 1 Mio. Is there anyone interested?

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