August 7, 2006

Four more Klimts up for auction after record sale

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A Jewish woman who went to court to win
back five Gustav Klimt paintings taken from her ancestors by
the Nazis will sell the remaining works from her collection
after the first fetched a record $135 million.

U.S.-based Maria Altmann, 90-year-old niece of the
Bloch-Bauers who originally owned them, had decided to part
with the works, which had a combined value estimated at between
$100 million and $150 million, Christie's auctioneers said on

The collection hit the headlines in June when it was
reported that Klimt's golden 1907 portrait of Altmann's aunt
Adele Bloch-Bauer had been bought by cosmetics magnate Ronald
S. Lauder for $135 million, the highest price ever paid for a

The portrait is considered one of the Austrian artist's
masterpieces and was the most valuable of the five paintings
owned by Altmann, experts say.

The remaining four were painted between 1903 and 1916, and
include another portrait from 1912 of Adele Bloch-Bauer, who
art experts have long speculated was Klimt's lover.

The later portrait signals the artist's move away from his
"golden period" that also included "The Kiss," arguably his
most famous painting.

The other three works that will go on sale are "Houses in
Unterach on Lake Atter" (1916), "Apple Tree I" (1911 or 1912)
and "Birch Forest" (1903).

A spokeswoman for Christie's in London said the four
remaining paintings would probably be sold privately, as
opposed to at an open auction.


Bloch-Bauer indicated in her will that Klimt's paintings
should be donated to the Austrian State Gallery.

However, after her death in 1925, her widowed and childless
husband was forced to flee Austria when the Nazis took over.
His property, including the Klimts, was confiscated in 1938 and
the paintings ended up in Vienna's Austrian Gallery Belvedere.

Altmann and other Bloch-Bauer heirs began their battle to
reclaim the works in 1998, first in Austria and then in the
United States, where the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that
Altmann could sue the Austrian government.

Austrian authorities agreed in January to return all five

The sale of the Klimts is at least the third high-profile
restitution case in the art world in recent months.

In June, a painting by Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele,
seized by the Nazis during World War Two, fetched nearly $22
million at an auction in London.

A painting by German expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
returned to the heirs of its Jewish owners by a German museum
last month will go on sale at Christie's in New York on
November 8 and is expected to fetch between $18 million and $25