Klimt painting sets European record with $108m price tag

The painting Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) by Austrian artist is most expensive artwork ever auctioned in Europe.

Gustav Klimt's 'Dame mit Faecher' (Lady with a Fan) is displayed at Sotheby's auction room
Gustav Klimt's Dame mit Faecher (Lady with a Fan) is displayed at Sotheby's auction room in London on June 20, 2023 [File: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo]

A late-life masterpiece by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt has sold for 85.3 million pounds ($108.4m), making it the most expensive artwork ever auctioned in Europe.

Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) was sold on Tuesday to a buyer in the room at Sotheby’s in London after a 10-minute bidding war for a hammer price of 74 million pounds ($94.35m). The higher final figure includes a charge on top of the sale price known as the buyer’s premium.

The sale price well exceeded the presale estimate of 65 million pounds ($80m). It also beat the previous European auction record of $104.3m – 65 million pounds at the time – including buyer’s premium, which was paid for Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture Walking Man I at Sotheby’s in 2010.

Previously, the most expensive painting auctioned in Europe was Claude Monet’s Le Basin aux Nymphéas, which fetched $80.4m at a Christie’s sale in 2008.

The Klimt piece sold on Tuesday was the last portrait completed by the artist before his death in 1918. The painting shows an unidentified woman against a resplendent, China-influenced backdrop of dragons and lotus blossoms. The painting was last sold in 1994, going for $11.6m at an auction in New York.

Sotheby’s said the buyer was art adviser Patti Wong, acting on behalf of a Hong Kong collector.

“Appearing on the market for the first time in thirty years, the atmosphere reflected the rarity of the occasion,” Sotheby’s said of those who had assembled for the auction in London on Tuesday.

“After a ten-minute bidding battle between four clients on the phones and in the room, the painting soared to £85.3 million, setting a new auction record for a work of art in Europe, and also for Gustav Klimt,” Sotheby’s said.

“The result is also the second highest price for any portrait ever sold at auction,” the auction house said.

Famed for his bold, daring art nouveau paintings, Klimt was a key figure in artistic modernism at the start of the 20th century. His work has fetched some of the highest prices for any artist.

Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II sold at a New York auction in 2006 for $87.9m, and his landscape Birch Forest sold at Christie’s in New York last year for $104.6m.

Two more of his portraits are reported to have sold privately for more than $100m.

The world auction record for an artwork is the $450.3m, paid in 2017 for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, though some experts dispute whether the painting of Jesus Christ is wholly the work of the Renaissance master.

Source: Al Jazeera, The Associated Press