Max Beckmann Portrait Breaks German Auction Records Costs $20.7 Million

German painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and writer. Although he is classified as an Expressionist artist, he rejected both the term and the movement Max Beckmann may now be the most expensive artwork ever to sell at auction in Germany, according to a report by the Associated Press.

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The painting hammered for $20.7 million on Thursday at Berlin’s Grisebach auction house. The previous record was for a 15th-century bronze sculpture of a Buddhist deity from China, which sold last year for about $10 million, according to ArtNews.

The painting, titled Selbstbildnis gelb-rosa (Self-Portrait Yellow-Pink), was made in 1943 during the artist’s exile in Amsterdam, where he fled after his work was classified as “degenerate art” by the Nazi regime. Hundreds of his works were confiscated from German museums.

Beckmann gave the painting his wife, Mathilde Kaulbach, who kept it until her death in 1986. The painting’s buyer remains unidentified. With the buyer’s premium, the total price for the work came to about $24.4 million, according to the auction house.

While Beckmann’s most recognized works are self-portraits, this one was unique in its rarity. Only five remain in private hands, according to Artnet. His self-portraits especially the ones painted while the artist was in exile, rarely come up for sale.

The previous record for a Beckmann self-portrait was minted at Sotheby’s in New York, where, in 2001, Selbstbildnis mit Horn (1938) sold for $22.5 million with fees, according to the Artnet Price Database. Birds Hell (1938–39) holds the record for the most expensive work by Beckmann, selling in 2017 for $44 million with fees at Christie’s London.

Before selling at auction, Selbstbildnis gelb-rosa was on view in New York.

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Sources: Associated Press, Artnet Price Database, Artnet News, ArtNews

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