Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I at Neue Galerie
Artist: Gustav Klimt
What We Did:
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (also called The Lady in Gold or The Woman in Gold) is a painting by Gustav Klimt, completed between 1903 and 1907. The portrait was commissioned by the sitter’s husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere. In 2006, following eight years of effort by the Bloch-Bauer heirs, the painting was returned to the family; it was sold the same year for $135 million, at the time a record price for a painting.
In 1998 Hubertus Czernin, the Austrian investigative journalist, established that the Galerie Belvedere contained several works stolen from Jewish owners in the war, and that the gallery had refused to return the art to their original owners, or to acknowledge a theft had taken place. One of Ferdinand’s nieces, Maria Altmann, hired the lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg to make a claim against the gallery for the return of five works by Klimt. After a seven year legal claim, which included a hearing in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, an arbitration committee in Vienna agreed that the painting, and others, had been stolen from the family and that it should be returned to Altmann. It was sold to the businessman and art collector Ronald Lauder, who placed the work in the Neue Galerie, the New York-based gallery he co-founded.
The 2015 film Woman in Gold commemorates the story of Maria Altmaan’s escape from Austria and repossession of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. See video trailer below.
Woman in Gold official trailer (2015) Helen Mirren Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
Starting later this week at a new museum in New York, art lovers can see with their own eyes the painting that set a world record at auction.
Cosmetics tycoon Ronald Lauder bought the portrait by Gustav Klimt last month, and Tuesday he gave CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason an exclusive interview – and look.
As the world’s most expensive painting was carefully uncrated, the new owner waited to see the work that literally cost him a fortune.
“I just absolutely adore it,” says Lauder.
Gustav Klimt’s gilded masterpiece, the portrait of Adele, cost Lauder a record-breaking $135 million.
“Sometimes now I look back and say, ‘How did I do it?’” Lauder tells Mason. “But at the moment when it was a question of buying it, it took me about two seconds to say yes.”
In his first television interview since buying the work, Lauder said Tuesday it will become the star of his museum devoted to Austrian and German art – the Neue Gallerie in New York.
A lifelong collector, he’s heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune.
But isn’t $135 million a lot of money – even for him?
“This was not a question of money,” he says. “This was a question of something so special. This piece is priceless.”
Not for a man worth a reported $2.7 billion.
Klimt painted Adele Bloch-Bauer in 1907. The daughter of a Jewish sugar magnate, she was rumored to be the artist’s lover.
But in 1938, when the Nazis invaded Austria, the painting was looted. After an epic legal battle, Adele’s portrait was finally returned to her heirs in Los Angeles earlier this year. The heirs then decided to sell it.
In the final leg of its incredible journey, the gold portrait was brought from Los Angeles in an unmarked truck shadowed by two security cars, traveling non-stop for three days and nights across the country.
Maria Altman, Adele’s 90-year-old niece, came to see her aunt’s portrait and said the painting, “has found its home here. It makes us all very happy.”
Installed behind bulletproof glass, the shimmering Adele will be on display at the Neue Gallerie beginning on Thursday. The painting’s price tag is now as rich as its history.