Klimt’s ‘Lady With a Fan’ Sells for $108.4 Million

In a remarkable feat that echoes the reverberations of artistry and finance, Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting, “Lady With a Fan,” achieved a groundbreaking sale price of $108.4 million at Sotheby’s. This sale marks a significant moment for both the art market and post-Brexit London, asserting the city’s prominence in high-value art.

MATHILDE BELLENGER/ Getty Images | Gustav Klimt’s painting Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) has sold for £85.3m at Sotheby’s

Breathing Life into Post-Brexit London’s Art Market

Amid the turbulence of Brexit’s aftermath, London has managed to recapture its prestige as a hub for Europe’s high-value art market. This reclamation was solidified with the remarkable sale of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, “Lady With a Fan,” at Sotheby’s. This radiant portrait, depicting an unnamed young woman against a backdrop of opulent Oriental textiles, fetched an impressive 85.3 million pounds, equivalent to $108.4 million.

Klimt vs. Giacometti

Klimt’s triumph shattered previous records, making this sale a testament to his unparalleled artistic prowess and a historical event. This astonishing price tag marks the highest achieved for a public sale in Europe, surpassing the $104.3 million garnered by Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture “Walking Man I” in 2010, also at Sotheby’s London.

A Fierce Auction Battle and a Resounding Victory

The “Lady With a Fan” sale was marked by a spirited ten-minute bidding war involving three determined Asian bidders. Ultimately, the painting found its new home with Hong Kong-based art adviser Patti Wong, seated at the heart of the salesroom.

The enthusiastic applause from the audience attested to the significance of this sale, reminiscent of a bygone era of fervent auction house excitement. Wong expressed her satisfaction with the price, stating it fell within her expectations. She revealed that the acquisition was on behalf of a Hong Kong collector, underscoring the global appeal and reach of Klimt’s masterpieces.

Imagno/ Getty | Gustav Klimt’s “Lady With a Fan” is a tribute to his legacy as a leading figure in the Vienna Secession movement.

Unveiling the Artist’s Later Maturity

James Roundell, an art consultant at London-based dealership Ward Moretti and a former head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, lauded the final price achieved for “Lady With a Fan.” He noted that the painting showcased Klimt’s later maturity and a decorative element that resonated particularly well in Asian tastes.

Decoding the Symbolism

Klimt’s “Lady With a Fan” captures an air of mystery and elegance, portraying an unidentified young woman in a half-length pose. Set against an intricate tapestry of opulent Oriental textiles, the painting exudes a captivating aura. Notably, the presence of a phoenix in the background adds another layer of symbolism. The phoenix, emblematic of eternal life, imparts a deeper meaning to the artwork’s narrative.

A Glimpse into Klimt’s Legacy

“Lady With a Fan” is one of two unfinished paintings photographed on easels in Klimt’s Vienna studio shortly after his passing in 1918. While the painting lacks a signature, Simon Stock, a specialist in Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s, considers it nearly complete.

This remarkable art has remained within the same family collection since 1994, when it was acquired at a New York auction for $11.5 million.

SOTHEBY’S/ ARTNEWS | Gustav Klimt’s artistic genius came to life in a multitude of strokes and hues, but none captured his mastery quite like “Lady With a Fan.”

Klimt’s Unprecedented Impact

Gustav Klimt’s influence on the art world is undeniable. As a leading figure of the Vienna Secession movement at the turn of the century, his artistic vision was characterized by decorative richness.

This reputation skyrocketed to new heights in 2006, when Ronald S. Lauder paid an astounding $135 million for Klimt’s gold-laden portrait “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” setting a record for the highest price ever paid for a work of art at the time.

In 2017, Oprah Winfrey further exemplified Klimt’s appeal when she sold “Adele Bloch-Bauer II” to a Chinese collector for $150 million. This artwork shared thematic elements with “Lady With a Fan,” reflecting the cross-cultural fascination with exotic textiles and the art movement known as “Japonisme.”

London’s Art Market Resurgence

The record-breaking sale of “Lady With a Fan” contrasts the recent challenges faced by the London auction scene since the Brexit vote in 2016. This triumph is a beacon of hope for the art market’s resurgence despite shrinking sales figures.

Sotheby’s recent two-part evening sale of modern and contemporary art, bolstered by Klimt’s masterpiece and Lucian Freud’s “Night Interior,” netted a substantial $252.9 million.

As Christie’s prepares to unveil their latest offerings, experts are optimistic that this upward trend may be a turning point for London’s art scene. The resilient spirit demonstrated by Klimt’s masterpiece ignites anticipation for more groundbreaking sales and renewed artistic vibrancy in the city.