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Klimt's final masterpiece sells for €86 million to become Europe's most expensive artwork

Gustav Klimt’s final masterpiece comes to auction at Sotheby’s in London this June.
Gustav Klimt’s final masterpiece comes to auction at Sotheby’s in London this June. Copyright Credit: WIkimedia Commons
Copyright Credit: WIkimedia Commons
By Theo FarrantAFP
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The final work by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt has fetched €86 million at auction setting a new record for the most expensive painting ever sold in Europe.

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Gustav Klimt's final masterpiece has broken the European auction record by selling for £74 million, or €86 million, at Sotheby's in London. 

The celebrated Austrian symbolist's "Dame mit Fächer" (Lady with a Fan) was expected to go for around €76 million.

Described as a "beautiful, rich and alluring portrait of an unnamed woman", the portrait was found on his easel in his studio when he died unexpectedly in February 1918 aged 55.

Helena Newman, from Sotheby's, said it was painted during Klimt's artistic prime when he was producing some of his most famous and experimental works.

"Many of those works, certainly the portraits for which he is best known, were commissions," said Newman, who is in charge of Sotheby's Europe and global head of Impressionist and Modern Art.

"This, though, is something completely different - a technical tour de force, full of boundary-pushing experimentation, as well as a heartfelt ode to absolute beauty."

What are the current most expensive artworks ever sold in Europe?

ANTHONY DEVLIN/AP2010
Auctioneer Henry Wyndam sells the sculpture 'Walking Man I' or 'L'Homme qui marche I', by Alberto Giacometti, at Sotheby's auction rooms in London, 3 February 2010.ANTHONY DEVLIN/AP2010

The previous highest price achieved at auction for any work of art in Europe was £65 million (€76 million) for Alberto Giacometti's "Walking Man I", sold at Sotheby's in February 2010.

Created in 1960, "Walking Man I" is a bronze sculpture depicting a tall, slender male figure striding forward. 

The sculpture was bought by Brazilian-Monégasque socialite and billionaire Lily Safra who died last year, aged 87. 

TOLGA AKMEN/AFP
A gallery assistant poses with an artwork entitled 'L'empire des lumieres,1961' by Belgian artist Rene Magritte.TOLGA AKMEN/AFP

Previously, the most expensive painting ever sold in Europe was René Magritte's "L'empire des Lumières" (The Empire of Light), which sold for £59.4m (€70m) in 2022.

The cinematic painting – described by Sotheby's auction house as a "masterpiece of 20th-century art" – was created in 1961 for Baroness Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet, a lifelong friend of Magritte who some believed to be his muse.

Mary Altaffer/AP
An auction house worker poses in front of Claude Monet's 'Le bassin aux nympheas' 1919 painting.Mary Altaffer/AP

Claude Monet's "Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas" (Water Lily Pond), was the most expensive painting ever sold in Europe when it went for £40.9 million (€48m) at Christie's in London in June 2008.

Created between 1917 and 1919, "Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas" belongs to Monet's renowned series of Water Lilies paintings.

This series, revered for its transformative impact, propelled the esteemed French Impressionist artist into the realm of abstraction and served as a wellspring of inspiration for generations of painters to come.

What is the most expensive Klimt painting ever sold?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II by Gustav Klimt. 1912.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Klimt portraits rarely come onto the open market. 

Sotheby's said the only other of the same standard - "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II" (1912) - sold for $87.9 million (€81m) at Christie's in New York in 2006.

Two portraits are reported to have been sold privately for more than $100 million each.

"Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II", which depicts the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist, was one of them and went for $150 million (€138m) in 2017.

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The other, "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I", sold for $135 million (€124m) in 2006 to the Neue Galerie in New York.

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