London witnessed an extraordinary feat in the realm of art as a late-life masterpiece by the celebrated Austrian artist Gustav Klimt achieved a groundbreaking sale on Tuesday. With a resounding price tag of 85.3 million pounds ($108.4 million), this artistic marvel now claims the prestigious title of the most expensive artwork ever to grace the European auction stage.
The captivating piece in question, "Dame mit Fächer" or "Lady with a Fan," emerged victorious after an exhilarating 10-minute bidding war that unfolded within the illustrious halls of Sotheby's in London. The gavel came crashing down at a remarkable hammer price of 74 million pounds ($94.35 million), a figure that includes the buyer's premium, an additional charge added to the sale price.
In a stunning twist, the sale price far surpassed the initial presale estimate of 65 million pounds ($80 million), leaving art enthusiasts and experts awestruck by the sheer magnitude of this triumphant transaction. Not only did it surpass all expectations, but it also shattered the previous European auction record set in 2010 when Alberto Giacometti's sculpture "Walking Man I" fetched $104.3 million (65 million pounds at the time) at Sotheby's. Prior to that groundbreaking sale, the crown for the most expensive painting ever auctioned in Europe was held by Claude Monet's "Le basin aux nymphéas," which fetched a remarkable $80.4 million at a Christie's sale in 2008.
The masterpiece that captivated the hearts of bidders on that fateful Tuesday was none other than the last portrait ever completed by Klimt himself before his untimely demise in 1918. The painting depicts an alluring, unidentified woman against a mesmerizing backdrop infused with elements of Chinese influence, featuring majestic dragons and delicate lotus blossoms.
Remarkably, this remarkable artwork had previously changed hands in 1994, commanding a price of $11.6 million at an auction in New York. However, its allure and significance have only grown stronger over the years, leading to its triumphant return to the auction scene.
Sotheby's revealed that the discerning buyer was none other than esteemed art adviser Patti Wong, acting on behalf of a prominent collector hailing from the bustling city of Hong Kong.
Gustav Klimt, renowned for his audacious and visionary art nouveau paintings, remains an iconic figure in the annals of artistic modernism during the dawning of the 20th century. His work consistently commands some of the highest prices in the art world, with notable examples including the sale of his "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II" for a staggering $87.9 million at a New York auction in 2006, and his captivating landscape "Birch Forest," which achieved a remarkable sale price of $104.6 million at Christie's in New York just last year.
To further attest to Klimt's enduring legacy, reports have emerged of two additional portraits by the maestro fetching prices surpassing the elusive $100 million mark in private sales.
While the pinnacle of the art auction world remains the astounding $450.3 million paid in 2017 for Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," it is worth noting that a debate persists among experts regarding the attribution of the painting of Jesus Christ to the revered Renaissance master. Nonetheless, the remarkable sale of Klimt's "Dame mit Fächer" marks a resounding triumph in the ever-evolving landscape of art auctions, solidifying Klimt's unrivaled status as an artistic luminary for the ages.