‘Adele Bloch-Bauer I‘ (1907) by Gustav Klimt.
A dazzling gold-flecked 1907 portrait by Gustav Klimt has been purchased for the Neue Galerie in Manhattan by the cosmetics magnate Ronald S. Lauder for $135 million, the highest sum ever paid for a painting.
The portrait, of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist and the hostess of a prominent Vienna salon, is considered one of the artist’s masterpieces. For years, it was the focus of a restitution battle between the Austrian government and a niece of Mrs. Bloch-Bauer who argued that it was seized along with four other Klimt paintings by the Nazis during World War II. In January all five paintings were awarded to the niece, Maria Altmann, now 90, who lives in Los Angeles, and other family members.
Although confidentiality agreements surrounding the sale forbid Mr. Lauder to disclose the price, experts familiar with the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he paid $135 million for the work. In a telephone interview Mr. Lauder did not deny that he had paid a record amount for the painting, eclipsing the $104.1 million paid for Picasso’s 1905 “Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)” in an auction at Sotheby’s in 2004.
“This is our Mona Lisa,” said Mr. Lauder, a founder of the five-year-old Neue Galerie, a tiny museum at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street devoted entirely to German and Austrian fine and decorative arts. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition.” He said Christie’s had helped him negotiate the purchase.