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Op-Ed

Klimt masterpiece sets European auction record

‘Dame mit Facher’ (‘Lady with a Fan’), the last painting by the late Austrian master Gustav Klimt, has become the most valuable work of art ever auctioned in Europe after being bought for £85.3 million ($108.4 million) at Sotheby’s in London.

  • The sale on Tuesday, following a short bidding war, surpassed presale expectations of £65 million ($83 million), which would also have beaten the record for Europe’s most expensive painting.

It was bought by former Sotheby’s Asia CEO, Patti Wong, on behalf of an unnamed collector from Hong Kong.

  • Wong led a rapid expansion of the auction house on the continent until her departure in 2021.

A bronze statue by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti had held the previous price record since 2010, when it was sold for £65 million ($104.3 million) in London.

‘Dame mit Facher’ was finished shortly before Klimt’s untimely death in 1918, when it was found on an easel in his studio. Unlike many of his works, it had not been commissioned, and historians dispute the identity of the woman depicted in it.

The square oil painting features the unidentified sitting model in a kimono against the backdrop of Chinese motifs, including lotus blossoms, phoenixes, and dragons. Klimt was an aficionado of Chinese and Japanese culture and owned a wardrobe of clothes from the countries.

The Austrian’s final masterpiece was last offered for sale in New York in 1994. The auction at Sotheby’s saleroom fetched $11.6 million at the time. It was part of the art collection of American entrepreneur Wendell Cherry, who had died three years prior, and went to an unnamed buyer. The auction house would not disclose why that owner had chosen to sell it three decades later.

The painting was on public display between March 2021 and February 2022 at Vienna’s Upper Belvedere museum, where it was the centerpiece of an exhibition dedicated to Klimt’s connection with Asia.

  • Reports in art media suggest that other works by Klimt have been sold privately for higher prices.
  • ‘The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II’ is said to have cost $150 million when it changed hands in 2016, while the ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ reportedly had a $135 million price tag in 2006.

Source: RT