Gustav Klimt masterpiece: a price tag of $108 million shatters European record

StarAvis Desk
StarAvis Desk
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"Lady with a Fan," oil on canvas by Gustav Klimt. GETTY IMAGES

Klimt, an Austrian artist’s masterpiece, ‘Lady with a Fan,’ achieves unprecedented auction price, becoming Europe’s most expensive artwork

Auctioned at Sotheby’s in London, the painting “Dame mit Fächer” (Lady with a Fan) by Gustav Klimt achieved an extraordinary price of £85.3 million ($108.4m), surpassing all previous European art auction records. Following a spirited 10-minute bidding war, the artwork was sold to an attendee in the auction room. The hammer price settled at £74 million ($94.35m), with the final amount including the buyer’s premium.

The selling price exceeded the initial estimate of £65 million ($80m), and it also eclipsed the previous European auction record set by Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture “Walking Man I,” which fetched £65 million ($104.3m at that time) at a Sotheby’s auction in 2010. Before this sale, the highest-priced European painting sold at auction was Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas,” which achieved $80.4m at Christie’s in 2008.

Dame mit Fächer holds special significance as it was the final portrait completed by Gustav Klimt before his passing in 1918. The painting portrays an unidentified woman set against a magnificent backdrop adorned with dragons and lotus blossoms, influenced by Chinese aesthetics. It was previously sold in 1994 for $11.6m at a New York auction.

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The buyer of the artwork was art adviser Patti Wong, representing a collector from Hong Kong. Sotheby’s described the auction as a rare event due to the painting’s appearance on the market after three decades. The intense bidding battle involving four clients, both on the phone and in the room, propelled the final price to £85.3 million, establishing a new auction record for both Gustav Klimt and any artwork in Europe.

Gustav Klimt's Lady with a Fan (Dame mit Faecher) on display at Sotheby's London Auction Room, June 20, 2023
Gustav Klimt’s Lady with a Fan (Dame mit Fächer) on display at Sotheby’s London Auction Room, June 20, 2023. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Sotheby’s further noted that the sale also secured the second-highest price ever for a portrait sold at auction. Gustav Klimt, known for his bold and groundbreaking art nouveau style, remains one of the most highly valued artists in the market. Notably, his “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” fetched $87.9m in a New York auction in 2006, while his landscape “Birch Forest” achieved $104.6m at Christie’s in New York last year. Additionally, two more Klimt portraits are rumored to have been privately sold for over $100m.

Although the record for the highest auction price belongs to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold for $450.3m in 2017, debates persist among experts regarding the extent of the Renaissance master’s involvement in the creation of the painting depicting Jesus Christ.

Analysis of the News

The news article reports on the significant sale of Gustav Klimt’s painting “Dame mit Fächer” (Lady with a Fan) at Sotheby’s in London, setting a new European auction record. The analysis of this news reveals several noteworthy aspects:

  1. Record-Breaking Sale: The painting achieved an astonishing selling price of £85.3 million ($108.4m), surpassing all previous records for artwork auctioned in Europe. This demonstrates the enduring appeal and value of Klimt’s work in the art market.
  2. Intense Bidding War: The auction witnessed a ten-minute bidding battle, involving both in-person and phone bidders, reflecting the high demand and interest surrounding the artwork. The competitive nature of the auction contributed to driving the final price to unprecedented heights.
  3. Exceeding Expectations: The final sale price exceeded the pre-sale estimate of £65 million ($80m), indicating the strong market demand for Klimt’s artwork and the willingness of buyers to pay a premium for exceptional pieces.
  4. Historical Significance: “Dame mit Fächer” holds historical significance as the last portrait completed by Gustav Klimt before his death in 1918. This factor, coupled with the painting’s captivating depiction of an unidentified woman against a Chinese-inspired backdrop, likely added to its appeal and contributed to the heightened bidding activity.
  5. Art Market Dominance of Klimt: Gustav Klimt’s prominence in the art world is reinforced by his ability to command exceptional prices for his artwork. His previous works, such as “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” and “Birch Forest,” have also achieved high prices in previous auctions, solidifying his status as a highly valued artist.
  6. Asian Collectors’ Influence: The buyer of the painting was an art adviser representing a Hong Kong collector, highlighting the growing influence and interest of Asian collectors in the global art market. This demonstrates the increasing internationalization of art sales and the importance of Asian collectors in driving prices for prestigious artworks.
  7. Comparison to Other Auction Records: While the sale of “Dame mit Fächer” set a new European auction record, it falls short of the overall highest auction price achieved by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” in 2017. However, debates among experts regarding the extent of da Vinci’s involvement in the artwork’s creation have cast some doubt on its attribution.

Overall, the sale of Klimt’s “Dame mit Fächer” represents a remarkable moment in the art world, showcasing the enduring appeal and market value of renowned artists’ masterpieces. It highlights the convergence of historical significance, artistic quality, and collector demand that culminated in a record-breaking auction result.


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