Klimt Painting Becomes Europe’s Most Expensive Art at Auction

The final sale price underscored the enduring allure of Klimt's work.

Lauren Thomann is an antique dealer, freelance writer, and editor with 16 years of experience and a B.A. in English and Linguistics. She specializes in antiques (mainly Victorian through Mid-Century), antique jewelry, old house renovations, and lifestyle and home-related content.
Gustav Klimt studio with paintings

In a historic event in the European art market, Gustav Klimt’s painting Lady with a Fan (Dame mit Fächer) was auctioned for a staggering 85.3 million pounds ($108.4 million) at Sotheby’s in London. This sale set a new record, marking the artwork as the most expensive ever sold at auction in Europe. The final sale price significantly exceeded the initial estimate of 65 million pounds ($80 million).

Klimt, renowned for his symbolic and erotic works, was a leading figure of the Art Nouveau era. HIs innovative style laid the groundwork for modern art in the early 20th century. Thomas Boyd Bowman, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sales, Sotheby’s London, commented on the details of the painting:

“The beauty and sensuality of the portrait lies in the detail: the flecks of blue and pink which enliven the sitter’s skin, the feathery lines of her eyelashes and the pursed lips that give her face character. Klimt here gave himself full freedom to capture on canvas a devastatingly beautiful woman.”

Thomas Boyd bowman

Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, described the painting as a “technical tour de force, full of boundary-pushing experimentation, as well as a heartfelt ode to absolute beauty.” She emphasized that this painting was the last portrait Klimt created before his untimely death, at a time when he was still in his artistic prime and producing some of his most accomplished and experimental works.

Record breaking Klimt painting, Lady with a Fan
Dame mit Fächer | Credit: SOTHEBY’S

Sales History

The painting was acquired shortly after Klimt’s death by Viennese industrialist Erwin Böhler. The work eventually passed to Heinrich and then, upon his death in 1940, to Heinrich’s wife Mabel.

Dame mit Fächer was last offered for sale nearly thirty years ago. In 1994 it was bought for $11.6 million and acquired by the family of the current sellers. Most recently, it was the subject of an important exhibition at the Belvedere in Vienna where it was reunited with and shown alongside Klimt’s other great, late masterpieces.

The recent purchase was made by Patti Wong, an art adviser, who acquired the masterpiece on behalf of a collector from Hong Kong.

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