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Sunday, June 18, 2006

135 million dollars...

Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. 1907
Oil and gold on canvas (138 x 138 cm)

Cosmetics magnate Ronald S. Lauder just bought a Gustav Klimt painting for an estimated $135 million – the highest price ever paid for a painting. The painting is a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist and possibly a one time lover of Klimt. Similar to The Kiss, it is an oil painting on canvas with flecks of gold.

Ronald Lauder is the younger son of the late Estée Lauder, and the founder of the Neue Galerie, a small museum with a collection of German and Austrian art. He is one of the chairmen of MoMA, and was a Republican political appointee in the Reagan administration (vomit). He is also the father of both Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer (cute – on the right) and Jane Lauder (not so cute – on the left).

This painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. and four other paintings have long been involved in a restitution battle between the Austrian government, and the family of Bloch-Bauer – who claimed that the paintings were seized by the Nazis during World War II. Earlier this year all five paintings were awarded to the family.

"This is our Mona Lisa," said Mr. Lauder, a founder of the five-year-old Neue Galerie, a tiny museum at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street devoted entirely to German and Austrian fine and decorative arts. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition." He said Christie's had helped him negotiate the purchase.

For most of the last 60 years the portrait has hung in the Austrian Gallery in the Belvedere Palace in Vienna near "The Kiss," another gold-flecked Klimt masterpiece of the Art Nouveau era. With its sinuous lines and intricate details, the painting, "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," was commissioned by the subject's husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. Mrs. Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis in 1925 at 43. In her will she requested that the painting and four others by Klimt that the couple owned be left to Austria upon her husband's death. But when Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, Mr. Bloch-Bauer fled, leaving all of his possessions behind. The Nazi government confiscated his property, placed three of the paintings in the Austrian Gallery and sold the rest.

Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) The Three Ages of Women 1905
Oil on canvas (178 x 198 cm)

The majority of Klimt’s paintings are of the female form - a lot of times, pretty erotic. My favorite painting of his is The Three Ages of Women, and of course his most famous is The Kiss.

Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) The Kiss 1907-1908
Oil and gold on canvas (180 x 180 cm)

The Potrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, along with the four other paintings that were recovered from the Austrian government, is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until June 30. The paintings will then travel to New York, to be exhibited at the Neue Galerie, where 'Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the collection of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer' will be on view from July 13 through September 18.

Source – The New York Times


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