CBS Evening News
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.