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Klimt's 'Last Masterpiece' Expected to Fetch $80 Million At London Auction

The portrait, titled "Dame mit Fächer" (Lady with a Fan), was discovered among Klimt's belongings after his death in 1918.
UPDATED JUN 19, 2023
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Sotheby's
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Sotheby's

Gustav Klimt, the renowned Austrian artist, is set to make waves in the art world once again. His "last masterpiece" is expected to fetch a staggering $80 million at an upcoming auction in London. The portrait, titled "Dame mit Fächer" (Lady with a Fan), was discovered among Klimt's belongings after his death in 1918 and remains one of the few Klimt portraits still in private hands, according to CNN style.

Sotheby's, which is handling the sale, announced the auction with great anticipation, dubbing the painting as Klimt's final masterpiece. Thomas Boyd Bowman, the head of impressionist and modern art evening sales at Sotheby's, described the artwork as "stunning," emphasizing the beauty and sensuality captured in the intricate details of the painting.


"Dame mit Fächer", conceived in 1917, showcases Klimt's signature style. The portrait reveals East Asian influences, evident in the fan held by the unknown subject and the incorporation of phoenix and lotus blossom motifs. The flattened perspective in the background pays homage to the Japanese woodblock prints that Klimt admired, reflecting his extensive collection of Asian art.

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While Klimt's most famous works emerged during his "Golden Phase," featuring the use of gold leaf, his later years were marked by artistic growth and experimentation. Helena Newman, Sotheby's head of impressionist and modern art, highlighted that Klimt was at his "artistic prime and producing some of his most accomplished and experimental works" before his untimely death at the age of 55.


Sotheby's modern and contemporary art summer auction on June 27 coincides with the eagerly awaited reopening of London's National Portrait Gallery and showcases a collection of remarkable portraits by renowned artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Edvard Munch.

Previously, the painting was in the possession of Viennese industrialist Erwin Böhle, who was a close friend and patron of Klimt. Later, it was acquired by art collector Rudolf Leopold and subsequently sold to the present owner's family in 1994 for less than $12 million. Since then, the painting has not been put up for auction, although it was showcased last year at The Belvedere, an Austrian museum that houses several significant works by Klimt.

Image Source: GettyImages/Peter Macdiarmid
Image Source: GettyImages/Peter Macdiarmid

Over the past two decades, Klimt's paintings have experienced an unprecedented surge in value, with only a handful of artists achieving nine-figure sums for their works. The current auction record for a Klimt is held by "Birch Forest," which fetched $104.5 million last year after being bought by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Peter Macdiarmid
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Peter Macdiarmid

The auction market has seen private sales of Klimt's works surpass even higher figures, such as "Wasserschlangen II" (Water Serpents II), reportedly purchased by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $183.8 million. Other notable sales include "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I," bought by US businessman Ronald Lauder for $135 million, and "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II," sold by Oprah Winfrey to a Chinese buyer for $150 million.

Despite concerns of a cooling auction market following the initial recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UBS and Art Basel annual market report indicated a decline of 1% in global auction revenues in the previous year, following a substantial 47% surge in 2021.