1. Paul Gauguin, When Will You Marry? (1892)
How much: $300 million (paid in 2015)
Who’s the big spender: Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani
Gauguin painted this scene a year after arriving in Tahiti, and it’s typical of the idealized way in which he portrayed the island and its inhabitants, even though Tahiti was a thoroughly westernized French colony at the time. When he showed it in Paris the following year, it was met with crickets and went unsold. How times have changed! The buyer is the sister of the Emir of Qatar and chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority. She’s also a regular on lists like Forbes’s “The World's 100 Most Powerful Women.” In 2016, she became embroiled in a contretemps between art-world powerhouse Gagosian gallery and Pelham Holdings, a company run by one Guy Bennett as a purchasing agent to Al-Mayassa and her husband, Sheik Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani. The squabble was over ownership of Picasso’s 1931 plaster bust of his mistress and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, which was featured in The Museum of Art’s “Picasso Sculpture” exhibition in 2015. Both sides claimed that they’d bought the work from Maya Widmaier-Picasso, the artist’s daughter by Walter.
Paul Gauguin, When Will You Marry? (1892)