Weird & Wonderful: Sales and Events that have Rocked the Art World

Emily Cavanagh, International Sales Gallerease
Emily Cavanagh
International Sales
17 Articles1 Curated artwork

The following accounts do not simply list the top 10 artworks ever sold by price, but instead includes a selection of noteworthy, and some cringeworthy, sales. Some are wacky, some are exceptional, and some are simply of interest due to the unprecedented results reached. We hope you enjoy this list and further engage yourself with the wondrous art world.


The first artwork is mentioned for it ranks as the highest price for a painting to date. “Interchanged” by the Dutch-American painter Willem de Kooning garnered much attention when it came up for auction in September 2015. Considered one of the artist’s first abstract landscapes, the work sold for a record-breaking $300 million USD. 


                                                           Willem de Kooning, 'Interchanged' c. 1955. 


In 2011 the art world was taken by storm when a photograph by the artist Andreas Gursky, “Rhein II," sold at Christie’s for $4.3 million. The sale broke the previous record which was held by Cindy Sherman, for her work "Untitled #96" which sold for $3.89 million in 2011. These outrageous prices caused a stir, with many questioning how and why these works reached such high prices.


Today, Damien Hirst is considered the UK's wealthiest living artist. The British contemporary artist raised £111 million (198 million USD) in 2008 by selling his complete exhibition entitled “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” at Sotheby's in London.


An artwork known humbly as "Artist's Shit" (Merda d'artista) was completed in 1961 when Italian artist Piero Manzoni produced ninety tin cans filled with feces, each weighing 30 grams and measuring 4.8x6.5cm. 

One of the cans did sell for €124,000 at Sotheby's on May 23, 2007. The artist is known for exploring the relationship between art production and human production.


                                                                  Piero Manzoni, "Artist's Shit" c. 1961. 


Back in 2015, Allan Abbott auctioned off a part of Marilyn Monroe ... in the form of hair and breast enhancers. The author and former mortician had worked at the funeral home where the body of Ms. Monroe was embalmed, and had unabashedly retrieved several locks of her hair and ‘falsies’ from the trash can. These items became available online many decades later, with a starting price of 50,000 USD.


Ebay is entering its 22nd year as an online auctioning website. Over the years some shocking sales have taken place, including the 2004 sales of a grilled cheese sandwich which garnered attention for resembling the Virgin Mary. The item sold for $28,000. Another unconventional sale occurred in 2005, when a company called SnoreStop paid $37,375 USD for ad space on a man’s forehead, in order to advertise its brand.


This year the Sotheby’s Spring sale witnessed two new records for one lot: the Pink Star ring, with a 59.60 carat pink diamond. The item sold for $71.2 million USD, giving the monumental piece the title of most expensive ring in the world AND most valuable gemstone ever sold at auction.

- The Jewellery Editor.




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Written by Emily Cavanagh on 04 Nov 2017, 12:30 Category Educational