Gustav Klimt's Bauerngarten could fetch $64 m

NEW YORK • The auction house Sotheby's has announced that Bauerngarten, a dazzling 1907 landscape painting by Viennese modernist Gustav Klimt, will lead its Impressionist and Modern Art sale on March 1, in London.

This marks the first time in more than two decades that the oil painting has been offered at auction, where it is expected to fetch more than US$45 million (S$64 million).

Bauerngarten was first exhibited in Vienna in 1908 and was painted by Klimt during the same period as some of his most celebrated portraits, which were largely commissioned. The most visible of these are Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer II.

Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was at the centre of the 2015 film Woman In Gold, starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.

According to a new Bloomberg report, Portrait Of Adele Bloch- Bauer II was sold last year by billionaire entrepreneur and TV host Oprah Winfrey for US$150 million to an unidentified Chinese buyer.

Quoting a person with knowledge of the transaction, Bloomberg called the sale one of the biggest private art deals of last year.

Winfrey, chief executive officer of TV channel Oprah Winfrey Network, bought the painting for US$87.9 million in 2006 at Christie's in New York - still an auction record for the Austrian artist. Since then, its value has risen about 71 per cent.

The work is the second major Klimt that changed hands since the art market started contracting. Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev sold Water Serpents II (1904-1907) privately for US$170 million in November 2015, according to Mr Sandy Heller, his art consultant.

Both Klimts went to Asia, where booming wealth has built a growing network of collectors eager to anchor their art holdings with Western masterpieces.

"Klimt is on the list of some people," said Ms Grace Rong Li, who advises Asian collectors on Western modern and contemporary art. The appeal of the artist, known for his golden-hued The Kiss, is both aesthetic and financial, she added.

Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, from 1912, depicts a woman in a long, narrow robe and halo-like black hat, standing against an ornate background of mauve and green. The subject, Bloch-Bauer, was the wife of a Jewish industrialist and art patron in Vienna.

The painting will be featured with its predecessor at Neue Galerie, billionaire Ronald Lauder's private museum in New York, through July.

Mr Lauder paid a reported US$135 million in 2006 for Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, at the time the highest price for any artwork, and the gold-ground 1907 painting became his museum's crown jewel.

Until his death in 1918, Klimt painted landscapes in the Salzkammergut region of Austria, at Lake Attersee and elsewhere. "There," according to a Times travelogue from 2013, "he shed city clothing for floor-length robes, temporarily abandoned his city mistresses and traded stylised portrait painting for the bracing, vivid landscapes of his summer idyll".

Klimt returned to Lake Attersee for 15 summers, the Times report continues, creating more than 45 of his 50 landscapes in the tiny lakefront towns of Seewalchen, Litzlberg and Weissenbach.

NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Gustav Klimt's Bauerngarten could fetch $64 m'. Print Edition | Subscribe