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The World's Most Expensive Photograph


A photograph of a river, some grass, and sky was auctioned at Christie’s in New York last week for a record-setting $4,338,500 to an unknown buyer. “Rhein II,” created in 1999 by German artist Andreas Gursky, beat out Cindy Sherman‘s previous photo auction record of $3.89 million in May, 2011.

We can’t repost an image of it, copyright and what not; though you can see it in the link above. But “Rhein II” measures 6 feet by 11 feet. The picture is one in a series of six photographs – the other five live in museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern.

This isn’t Gursky’s first price-setting record – according to a 2009 Economist profile, his photograph “99 Cent II (Diptych)” set a then-record of $3.3 million, and was acquired by Ukranian steel billionaire Victor Pinchuk.

Let’s pause for a moment – sure, a little over $4 million is a lot of money, but is it all that economically illogical, considering how well luxury brands are doing? An artist, after all, is a brand too.