£85m Klimt painting breaks European auction record

The opening of the exhibition 'Klimt. La Secessione e l'Italia' at Palazzo Braschi in Rome, Italy, 26 October 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Riccardo Antimiani)

A portrait by Gustav Klimt sold for £85.3 million ($108.4-million) at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday, becoming the most valuable artwork to sell at auction in Europe. (The previous record was set in 2010, when Giacometti’s L'homme qui marche sold for £65 million in London.)

Carrying an unofficial estimate in the region of £65-million, the Klimt, Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan), was executed in 1917-1918 and carried an irrevocable bid, meaning a third party had guaranteed in advance to purchase the work for a predetermined sum. Thus, it was widely understood to be a record-setting work well in advance of the sale.

Nevertheless, 10 minutes of serious bidding pushed the piece well beyond its estimate. In reaching this final sum, the painting also set a record for Klimt at auction. The late artist’s global public record was previously set last November, when the estate of Paul Allen sold Klimt’s Birch Forest for $104.6-million.

Tuesday nights’ Klimt last appeared at auction in 1994, when it was purchased for $11.6-million at Sotheby’s in New York, meaning in the interim it has appreciated by roughly 834%.


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