Chicago Tribune

It's `our Mona Lisa'
The world's most expensive painting, a Klimt portrait once seized by the Nazis, goes on display in New York

By Stevenson Swanson
Tribune national correspondent
Published July 14, 2006

NEW YORK -- Gazing impassively out of a shimmering golden background, the pale face of Adele Bloch-Bauer greeted museumgoers Thursday who had come to see the most expensive painting in the world in its new home.
After a 68-year odyssey that started when the Nazis seized the art collection of a wealthy Jewish widower in Vienna, the portrait of Bloch-Bauer went on display for the first time at the Neue Galerie, a 5-year-old museum of German and Austrian art founded by cosmetics magnate Ronald Lauder.
Last month, Lauder negotiated the purchase of the portrait by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt for a reported price of $135 million, buying it from the heirs of Adele Bloch-Bauer's husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The heirs had fought for seven years to win the return of the painting from Austria's government.
"I am so very happy that these paintings are here," said Maria Altmann, 90, the Bloch-Bauers' niece, referring to the portrait and four other Klimt paintings that were returned to the family and went on display Thursday. "Everybody from around the world can come here and see them."
Visitors to the Neue Galerie, which is housed in a Fifth Avenue mansion once owned by the Vanderbilts, were awed by the painting's sumptuous use of gold and its large size, measuring 55 inches square.
"Wow," said Decatur Miller, 74, a retired Baltimore lawyer, summarizing his reaction to the painting, formally titled as "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I." Miller was part of the lunchtime crowd in the marble-columned gallery where the Klimts are on display in custom-built, bulletproof-glass cases.
"I don't think you can really appreciate it until you see it in person because of the surface," said his wife, Sally, 70. "This isn't a painting that comes across particularly well in reproductions. It's just breathtaking."
One of Klimt's best-known paintings, the 1907 portrait is "our `Mona Lisa,'" Lauder said Wednesday. "This is one of the icons of its time. There's no other painting like it."
Lauder and museum director Renee Price hope that the "Golden Adele," as the work is known informally, will make their small museum "worth a detour," as Michelin travel guides would put it. To judge from the number of visitors who said they stopped by Thursday just to see the painting, their hope may be borne out.
Klimt painted at a time of great intellectual and artistic ferment in Vienna, an era that produced Sigmund Freud's theories concerning the human psyche, important works of architecture and design, and the musical explorations of Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg.
Inspired by gold-laden Byzantine mosaics Klimt saw during a visit to Ravenna, Italy, the artist incorporated the precious metal into many of his works.
"I've never been that big a fan of Klimt," said New Yorker Ellen Lannon, who saw the Ravenna mosaics on a trip to Italy. "But . . . knowing that he was inspired by Ravenna changes my opinion of his work."
Klimt labored on the portrait of Bloch-Bauer for three years--and may have had an affair with her.
In addition to the famous portrait, the Bloch-Bauers owned a second portrait that Klimt painted of Adele in 1912 and three landscapes.
After her death in 1925, the five Klimts continued to hang in her bedroom, which her husband preserved as a memorial to his wife, said Altmann, who escaped from Austria and eventually settled in Los Angeles.
Bloch-Bauer fled to Switzerland in 1938, following the Nazi takeover of Austria. The paintings, as well as his house and business, were confiscated. He died penniless in 1945.
For decades following World War II, the works hung in the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, but in 1999, Altmann and other members of the family used newly disclosed Austrian government documents to bolster their argument that the paintings belonged to them.
The case wound its way through the U.S. and Austrian legal systems, resulting in a ruling for the heirs by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004. In January, an Austrian panel declared the paintings had been improperly obtained and ordered them turned over to the family.
In an interview Wednesday, Lauder would not confirm the reported $135 million purchase price, but said that the figure surpassed the previous high for a painting, the $104.1 million paid for Picasso's "Boy With a Pipe" in 2004.
"These paintings and other paintings that were looted from Jewish homes were the last prisoners of World War II," said Lauder, who has been one of the leading advocates for the return of such confiscated artworks to the families of the owners.
The five Klimts were first displayed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before travelling to New York. The group will be exhibited at the Neue Galerie (German for "New Gallery") until Sept. 18. After that, the golden portrait will remain on view.
What will happen to the other four is less certain. Art appraisers have speculated that the group could command as much or more than the $135 million that the single work fetched.
That sky-high figure for one painting elicited a "What are you going to do?" reaction from Thursday's crowd.
"It's a stunning painting, but $135 million can go very far in other places," said Johanna Doyle, 24, visiting from Dublin. "It's a reflection of how much things cost in the art world."
Tribune arts critic Alan Artner explains why the "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" is worth every penny of the $135 million purchase price. chicagotribune. com/klimt

Los Angeles Times
July 16, 2006    E-mail story    Print    Most E-Mailed

Klimt paintings a hot attraction

Times staff and wire reports

Will there be lines of people snaking down 86th Street and Fifth Avenue in
New York for the next two months?

"Probably," says Scott Gutterman, deputy director of the Neue Galerie, the
museum housed in a converted 1914 mansion at the convergence of those

Definitely, says New York art dealer Richard L. Feigen, who expects "a mob

The reason? The Neue Galerie is where Gustav Klimt's portrait "Adele
Bloch-Bauer I" and four other works by the early 20th century Austrian
painter will be on display through Sept. 18. The gold-adorned 1907 oil for
which cosmetics magnate and Neue Galerie co-founder Ronald S. Lauder
recently paid $135 million received so much publicity that "it made Klimt a
household name," says Feigen. And the gallery where the five paintings are
hanging holds only 80 viewers at a time.

A hint of what may be in store comes from the Los Angeles County Museum of
Art, where the paintings were on view from April through June.

When the record amount Lauder had paid was reported, LACMA saw a drastic
spike in attendance, according to spokeswoman Heidi Simonian.

"We had lines around the corner like at Disneyland," she says. On its last
day, the exhibition attracted more than 7,500 people, a record for the show.
LACMA limited the Klimt gallery capacity to 70 to 75 viewers.

In New York, "we'll form an orderly line outside if we exceed capacity,"
says Gutterman.

Actually, there will be two lines, one for members and one for the public,
who can join for $275.

In addition, the museum is offering a special viewing on Wednesdays, when
it's typically closed, from noon till 4 p.m. That's free to members and $50
for others instead of the usual $15. Tickets for any day must be bought on
site; there are no reservations, timed tickets or advance sales.

The Bloch-Bauer paintings, looted by the Nazis in 1938 and exhibited for
decades in Vienna's Belvedere museum, were restituted in January to Maria
Altmann of West Los Angeles and other heirs after a court fight with the
Austrian government. Adele Bloch-Bauer was a Viennese art patron and wife of
Jewish sugar magnate Ferdinand; she may also have been Klimt's mistress.

The golden portrait will be part of the Neue Galerie's permanent collection
once the exhibition closes. At a media preview Wednesday, Gutterman declined
to say whether plans were afoot to buy any of the paintings to hang
permanently with it.

But the same day, arts journalist Lee Rosenbaum wrote on her blog,
CultureGrrl, that Lauder had told her, "We are contemplating these
paintings. Ideally, I would like to acquire all of them. It depends on what
the heirs want to do."

Ronald Lauders grš§ter Coup

(Die Presse) 14.07.2006

"Goldene Adele" lockt die New Yorker und veredelt die Neue Galerie.

Adele hŠtte New York geliebt, weil sie sich fŸr alles Moderne begeisterte. Ihre Nichte Maria Altmann ist da von Ÿberzeugt. Die goldene Klimt-Frau lockt bis September in Ronald Lauders Neue Galerie in New York. Was mit den anderen restituierten GemŠlden geschieht, die in der Schau "Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the Collection of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer" zu sehen sind, wisse sie nicht, so Altmann: "Vielleicht kommen sie zur Auktion. Ich hoffe sehr, dass sie in einem Museum landen." Altmann ist mit 25 Prozent am Streitwert beteiligt, bei ihrem Anwalt Randol Schoenberg sollen es 40 Prozent sein.

Museumsbesitzer Ronald Lauder (62) hatte im Juni "Adele" als - bisher bekanntes - teuerstes Bild der Welt fŸr 135 Mio. Dollar erstanden. Das lŠsst stattliche Gewinne bei weiteren Klimt-VerkŠufen erwarten, insgesamt wurde der Erlšs von Schoenberg auf 220 Mio. Û geschŠtzt. Museen leben von "Blockbustern", Adele ist Lauders grš§ter Kunst-Coup, die "Neue Galerie" wird durch den Erwerb betrŠchtlich aufgewertet.

Der zweite Sohn der Kosmetik-Kšnigin EstŽe Lauder (gestorben 2004) ist eine schillernde Persšnlichkeit. Bereits als Teenager erwarb er Schiele-Zeichnungen. Wirtschaftlich stand er trotz einschlŠgigen Studiums im Schatten seines Šlteren Bruders Leonard. Wahlkampfspenden und die Freundschaft seiner Mutter mit Nancy Reagan brachten Ronald Lauder als UnterstaatssekretŠr ins Pentagon. 1985 schickte PrŠsident Reagan Lauder als Botschafter nach Wien, wo er der Angelobung Kurt Waldheims als BundesprŠsident fernblieb, was einige politische Wellen verursachte, ebenso wie Lauders Stellungnahmen gegen Waldheim.

FŸr Kontroversen sorgten auch seine KunstankŠufe in …sterreich, deren Ausfuhr das Bundesdenkmalamt genehmigte, darunter auch "WinterbŠume" von Schiele. Insgesamt ging es um 120 Kunstobjekte. Lauder witterte eine Kampagne gegen sich.

Seine jŸdische IdentitŠt (die Familie stammt aus der k. und k. Monarchie, genauer aus Ungarn) sei ihm durch die Zeit in Wien stŠrker bewusst geworden, sagte Lauder im RŸckblick. 1986 wurde er von Henry Grunwald als US-Botschafter in Wien abgelšst. Seit den Achtzigerjahren beschŠftigt sich Lauder als Vorsitzender der Lauder Investment Inc. vorwiegend mit Investitionen, speziell in Osteuropa und im Medien-Bereich - mit wechselndem Erfolg. Ressourcen sind reichlich vorhanden: Mit einem geschŠtzten Privatvermšgen von 2,7 Mrd. Dollar zŠhlt Lauder laut Wirtschaftsmagazin "Forbes" zu den 300 Reichsten der Welt. Eng befreundet war er mit dem Schiele-Experten Serge Sabarsky (1912-1996); der Wiener KunsthŠndler und Sammler musste vor den Nazis fliehen. Er kaufte das "Neue-Galerie"-GebŠude an der 5th Avenue. Lauder war einer seiner Testamentsvollstrecker.

Um Lauders KunstaktivitŠten ranken sich Legenden: 1998 soll er verhindert haben, dass die im New Yorker Museum of Modern Art ausgestellte Leopold-Sammlung zur GŠnze beschlagnahmt wird; Schieles "Wally" ist bis heute konfisziert. Fehlendes Entgegenkommen bei Provenienzforschern in Lauders eigener Sammlung beklagte jŸngst die "Kunstzeitung". Die Neue Galerie dementierte, alles sei grŸndlich recherchiert. Wiens Historisches Museum musste 2003 eine Ausstellung der New Yorker Sabarsky-Stiftung absagen, die Sicherheit fŸr ihre Leihgaben vor Beschlagnahme wegen des Verdachts auf Raub-Kunst forderte. In …sterreich gibt es aber keine ImmunitŠt bei Raubkunst, in Amerika muss die ImmunitŠt beantragt werden, was aber bei der Leopold-Schau im MoMA unterblieb. Bp

KUNST: Das teuerste GemŠlde der Welt nun in New York zu sehen

"Gold-Adele" in ihrer neuen Heimat
Eine berŸhmte Wiener Ikone fand ihre neue Heimat in New York: Gustav Klimts "Goldene Adele", das 1907 entstandene PortrŠt von Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Zusammen mit vier weiteren Klimt-Bildern, die ebenfalls von der Republik …sterreich an Maria Altmann restauriert wurden, ist sie ab Donnerstag im New Yorker Museum "Neue Galerie" fŸr deutsche und šsterreichische Kunst zu sehen. Die "Goldene Adele", die Museumsbesitzer Ronald Lauder als das derzeit teuerste GemŠlde der Welt um 135 Millionen US-Dollar erwarb, wird dort bleiben.

Altmann feierte 91er

Die so genannte "Goldene Adele" (Adele Bloch-Bauer I) war das zentrale Werk im Rechtsstreit der Republik gegen die Bloch-Bauer-Erben, der sechs Jahre gedauert hat und im JŠnner von einem Schiedsgericht zu Gunsten der Erben entschieden wurde.

"Ich bin sehr glŸcklich, dass das Bild in diesem Museum hŠngt, wo es Menschen aus der ganzen Welt bewundern kšnnen", sagte Maria Altmann vor dem PortrŠt sitzend. Sie hat dieser Tage ihren 91. Geburtstag gefeiert.

Das goldglŠnzende GemŠlde und die vier anderen Klimt-Bilder gehšrten der von den Nazis enteigneten Familie Bloch-Bauer. Die von Altmann reprŠsentierten Erben hatten sich jahrelang mit der šsterreichischen Regierung um den Besitz der Kunstwerke gestritten. Anfang des Jahres war es Altmann gelungen, ihre AnsprŸche vor einem šsterreichischen Schiedsgericht durchzusetzen.

Letzte lebende Nichte

Was nun mit den vier anderen Klimt-Bildern passiert, die zusammen rund 100 Millionen Dollar wert sein sollen, wisse Altmann nicht. "Vielleicht kommen sie in die Auktion. Ich hoffe sehr, dass sie in einem Museum landen werden. Jetzt freue ich mich erst einmal, dass sie hier ein vorŸbergehendes Zuhause gefunden haben".

Altmann ist die letzte lebende Nichte von Adele, der in dem Bild portrŠtierten Frau des šsterreichischen Zuckerindustriellen.

 vom 14.07.2006