Oprah Sells Famed Gustav Klimt Portrait for $150 Million

Winfrey has been revealed as the painting's former owner.

Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912). Courtesy of the Neue Galerie.
Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912), detail. Courtesy of the Neue Galerie.

Oprah Winfrey made a pretty penny selling Gustav Klimt‘s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) for $150 million in 2016, reports Katya Kazakina for Bloomberg. The buyer is allegedly an unidentified Chinese collector, who pulled the trigger on the purchase over the summer.

A noted art collector, Oprah originally purchased the painting, one of two portraits the Austrian artist painted of Adele Bloch-Bauer, at Christie’s in 2006 for $87.9 million. The work was sold by the subject’s heirs, after they won a drawn-out legal battle with the Austrian state museum over five Klimt canvases seized by the Nazis from Bloch-Bauer’s husband during World War II.

The dispute over the Nazi-looted works was the subject of the 2015 film Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren as Bloch-Bauer’s niece, Maria Altmann, and Ryan Reynolds as her lawyer.

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907). Courtesy of the Neue Galerie.

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907). Courtesy of the Neue Galerie.

According to the artnet Price Database, Adele Bloch-Bauer II holds the artist’s record at auction for the 2006 sale. At the time, artnet News’s Eileen Kinsella reported on the competitive auction, which Winfrey won over the phone, noting that the winning “bidder entered the competition at $74 million—suggesting that he or she wanted it no matter how high the price went.”

The painting went on public view for the first time since the auction when Winfrey loaned it to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in September 2014. The beloved talk show host and television executive remained anonymous during the five-year loan arranged by her friend and fellow entertainment mogul, art collector David Geffen, who donated $100 million to MoMA in April.

Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann in <em>The Woman in Gold</em>. Courtesy of Robert Vigalsky/The Weinstein Company.

Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann in The Woman in Gold. Courtesy of Robert Vigalsky/The Weinstein Company.

The painting again made headlines in June 2016, when the Neue Galerie, also in New York, announced that the canvas would appear in its upcoming exhibition, “Klimt and the Women of Vienna’s Golden Age, 1900–1918,” an impressive assortment of portraits of the artist’s female patrons.

In the show, Adele Bloch-Bauer II was reunited with its more famous predecessor, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which Neue Galerie co-founder Ronald Lauder bought for $135 million in a private sale, also in 2006. At the time, it was the most expensive painting ever sold. Both paintings had been displayed at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna prior to being returned to Bloch-Bauer’s descendants.

Meanwhile, however, Winfrey was getting pressure to sell: according to Bloomberg, Geffen was approached by art dealer Larry Gagosian, who had a client willing to buy the work. In the ten years Winfrey owned the work, its value increased by 71 percent.

Gustav Klimt, <em>Water Serpents II</em> (1904). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Gustav Klimt, Water Serpents II (1904). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Bloomberg notes that another major Klimt painting, Water Serpents II, was sold in a private sale by Russian billionaire collector Dmitry Rybolovlev in November 2015. The canvas, priced at $170 million, also went to an Asian buyer.

But while both canvases may be heading East in the near future, the Neue Galerie recently announced the extension through April 17 of four of the loans from the “Women of Vienna’s Golden Age” show. In the meantime, you can catch Adele Bloch-Bauer II at the museum through July.


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