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.

Samuel Chen

Isn't this a sign of inflation? Rather, the debasement of a currency?


Whatever the product, you are not going to put in more effort in acquiring the means to get it than you are going to get out of it in enjoyment. This leads to only one of two possibilities.

1. The enjoyment that some people get out of owning and looking at a Gursky is incredibly high.
2. It does not take a lot of effort for some people to make $4 million.

Personally, my money is on the latter...

caleb b

These things are like tulip bulbs. They only have value because of the bigger idiot.

Kim Onisko, CPA

"A fool and his money are soon parted"

(Tusser and Bridges, late 1500's ... still true today)

Steve Nations

I think it's a great investment. I'm sure the value of this photograph will only go up. Just like the value of my house.


If you know how the ex-USSR operates, it is perfectly logical. The esthetic value of the photograph is irrelevant: try to sell that same picture to that same dude on the condition that the price must not be revealed to anyone, and he most certainly will not be interested. The way it is though, the purchase is an indication of the size of the carrot that may be hung in front of your nose if you are willing to comply, should the buyer request your services. It will literally pay off.


I'm going to assume the tee box is on this side, and the fairway on the other side.


Suckers.. I just downloaded and printed it out... FOR FREE!!

(minus ink/paper/time)

Jason kernan

Ive looked at both the Rhein II & 99 cent photos, oh dear! Can't believe they fetched such a price, just proves that having money doesnt mean you are someone with good taste (or sense)!


Gursky digitally manipulated the photo to remove factory buildings and pedestrians from the shot, and said, "Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river." citation:

Are you kidding me?