Christie's to sell four Klimt works


Four of five paintings by Gustav Klimt that were at the center of a much-publicized restitution battle will be heading to Christie's for sale this fall, Marc Porter, president of Christie's, confirmed over the weekend. Whether the works will be auctioned or sold privately has yet to be determined, he said.

Experts say the four paintings by the Austrian artist - three landscapes and a portrait executed between 1903 and 1916 - are worth about $100 million.

The five Klimts were handed over by Austria in January to Maria Altmann of Los Angeles, the niece of the original owners in Vienna, and other family members. The paintings came from the collection of the Jewish sugar industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer and his wife, Adele. An arbitration court had ruled that they were improperly seized when the Nazis took over the country.

In June, the cosmetics executive Ronald S. Lauder purchased the most renowned of the five, a gold-flecked portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer from 1907, for the Neue Galerie in Manhattan for $135 million. It is the highest price known to have been paid for a painting, eclipsing the $104.1 million paid for Picasso's 1905 Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice) in 2004.

All five Klimts are on view at the Neue and have been attracting large crowds. "None of us is in a position to keep them," Altmann said in a telephone interview from her home in Los Angeles.

For most of the past 60 years the paintings had hung in the Austrian Gallery of the Belvedere Palace in Vienna near The Kiss, another lustrous gold-flecked Klimt masterpiece of the Art Nouveau era.

Since Lauder announced he had bought Adele Bloch-Bauer I for the Neue Galerie, which he helped to found five years ago, there has been speculation that he might buy the other paintings. On Friday, he said in a telephone interview that he would consider purchasing one or more "if the price is right."

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