June 19, 2006

The most ever paid for a painting: $135 million.

And it's for a Klimt painting. A Klimt! I mean -- wow! -- it's pretty. Look at all the gold.


Museum Associates/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images

Speaking of prettiness, the purchaser's money comes from cosmetics.

Actually, the purchase and the price make a lot of sense. The buyer, Ronald S. Lauder, is the founder of the Neue Galerie, "a tiny museum at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street devoted entirely to German and Austrian fine and decorative arts." The painting exactly fits the place and is one of the artist's greatest paintings. Lauder had to convince the owner to sell. And the owner, the niece of the woman in the portrait (Adele Bloch-Bauer), fought a long and hard to obtain the painting from the Austrian government, which, she successfully argued, had obtained it by way of the Nazis.

25 comments:

HD_Wanderer said...

I saw pictures of it in art history classes. It's pretty, but worth $135 million? I'm no that impressed.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder by how much the stolen-by-Nazi history upped its worth?

Ann Althouse said...

It has a story... That adds depth to something that is stunningly superficial

Dave said...

Will have to go to 5th & 86th street I guess to check out the painting.

What a crappy neighborhood.

tcd said...

I prefer Klimt's landscapes to his people paintings.

madisonman,
The story is what antiques appraisers call "provenance". I watch way too much "Antiques Roadshow".

Wolfe said...

The Mona Lisa it ain't.

Not remotely to my taste, but another cool thing I learned from Ann Althouse without having to endow her university (much less register!)

Good on Maria Altmann for regaining the painting. The story does indeed elevate it, though I'm tempted to think only a lawyer could truly appreciate such a story. [No, no, not a shot at lawyers because of the Nazi angle; a shot at lawyers for the complexity]

-wolfe

MadisonMan said...

Yes, I was blanking on the word 'provenance' when I commented at 9:09. Thanks for filling it in. We tried to get into ARS when they stopped in Madison, but failed to get tickets. This was several years ago.

Dave said...

I fail to see the appreciation of the Mona Lisa. Talk about an ugly lady.

Wolfe said...

It's the smile, Dave. And no, I supposed dentist's wouldn't agree with me. Too bad.
-Wolfe

Wolfe said...

ugh. 'suppose' and 'dentists'. Bleh I need more tea.
-wolfe

Dave said...

People have tried to explain the "smile" to me and it is utterly boring and pedestrian.

I say the French are fools and idolators for loving the Mona Lisa so.

Marghlar said...

I prefer Klimt's landscapes to his people paintings.

I agree absolutely. I find this moderately interesting, but it doesn't grab me. And the price seems a tad askew for the importance of the work.

But if the buyer is willing to pay, I suppose that's their business.

Leah said...

If you are in Los Angeles, get to Lacma and see the paintings before they leave. And go see them in NY if you have a chance.
The Reproductions of Golden Adele are nothing like the original painting.
Good for Ron Lauder, he clearly appreciates this art. He didn't buy it to hide in his own home, he is sharing her with the public.
And good for Maria, she never intended to keep the paintings. This way, one of the most famous Klimts will remain in America, not go back to Europe.

Ann Althouse said...

Leah: I agree. I absolutely love that Lauder has a gemlike museum and paid what he needed to for this painting which will do so well there. I love the art museums on the Upper East Side. I'd do a trip to New York just to go to them all and, especially, to see this painting.

Dave said...

True story: I was at a wedding in Geneva two summers ago and a pretentious French lady came up to me and said,

"You're from New York right? Why do you guys think you have such great museums? Have you ever even been to the Louvre?"

Needless to say my aversion to the French continues to this day.

All of which is to say, I agree wholeheartedly with Ann's comments about the museums on the upper east side of NYC.

(Though I am partial to MOMA myself...)

P. Froward said...

It breaks my heart to think that if Klimt had lived only a few more years, he could have finished his transition to black velvet.

tjl said...

Althouse said:
"It has a story... That adds depth to something that is stunningly superficial."

The apparent superficial prettiness is purposeful. Klimt's work expresses a theme common to many artists and thinkers in belle-epoque Vienna: a polished surface barely masking neurotic turmoil beneath. The context of this piece is Freud, Mahler, Hofmannsthal, and Wittgenstein.

jeff said...

I wouldn't buy a print of it for $10 to grace my wall.
It's ugly to me and would probably clash with our other decor.

downtownlad said...

I'm not a fan of gold as I usually find it to be quite gaudy.

But this painting - Wow! Stunning.

Cronaca said...

Having been looted by the Nazis does not generally increase the market value of an artwork.

What does increase value is having hung for decades as a highlight of a major museum.

As for the Mona Lisa, and indeed most of Leonardo's paintings, it is difficult to appreciate the novelty of such pivotal artworks from our present vantage. But if you can manage to set aside what happened later, and look afresh at what painters were doing before Leonardo, the Mona Lisa suddenly stands out as something very strikingly different. Again, this is something difficult to appreciate in hindsight; Giotto offers similar difficulties. That's how it often is for artists whose works broke new ground, only to have their contribution absorbed quickly and thoroughly into the Western artistic tradition.

reader_iam said...

would probably clash with our other decor.

This puts me in mind of the clash between the characters played by Max Von Sydow (a painter) and Daniel Stern (a wealthy rock star looking to decorate his places in the Hamptons) in "Hannah and Her Sisters."

Ann Althouse said...

"the clash between the characters played by Max Von Sydow (a painter) and Daniel Stern (a wealthy rock star looking to decorate his places in the Hamptons)"

Perfect!

ignacio said...

Did you know that Klimt used to first do a version of the women in his portraits utterly nude, full frontal (they had not posed this way), then cover their nudity with the elaborately decorative dress?

AlaskaJack said...

"The context of this piece is Freud, Mahler, Hoffmannsthal and Wittgenstein."

Tj, in you search for context, how could you have possibly overlooked Fritz, the bartender at Der Stein?

tjl said...

Alaska Jack:

"Tj, in you search for context, how could you have possibly overlooked Fritz, the bartender at Der Stein?"

For the answer to that one, you'll have to check with Carl Schorske, author of "Fin de Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture," who initially made these comparisons. I don't think old Carl was much of a drinker, though.