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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why the Klimt Was Worth It

Posted by on June 22 at 9:36 AM

The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones makes the case for the $135 million sale.

Forget the cliche of Klimt—the gilded Valentine cards, the Athena posters; in short, The Kiss, the one image by this artist that we all think we know. Klimt is so often undervalued, just because of this travestied masterpiece. So tear your mind’s eye away from it. … Klimt’s art is not a happy celebration of love but a tragic Nietzschean acknowledgement of the irrational as something that cannot be controlled or resisted, but will, instead, carry you along, for better or worse.

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What else should Lauder do with his money?

What a minute...who hates Klimt anyway?

The price has more to do with the infamous history of the painting than with it's artistic value. The painting was willed to Austria but also to Klimt's heirs, then stolen by nazi's, then the property of the Austrian state, then returned to Klimt's heirs in arbitration, and finally bought by a dealer putting together a museum of pictures stolen by nazis.
I rather feel sorry for poor Adele.

Or, you could buy 1 million prints of Klimt's "The Kiss", at full size, for the same money.

Think about it.

No. The painting was not "willed to Austria." Mrs. Bloch-Bauer, who predeceased her husbad asked him, in her will, to give the paintings to Austria. That is a request (unenforceable), not a bequest.

Moreover, the price has not much to do with the painting's history, except for the fact that it comes with a completely legally clean provenance, and is one of Klimt's finest efforts. (As is clear from the troubles at the Getty and the Met, a clean provenance for a masterpiece is worth a lot.) There is only one other klimt masterpiece in private hands -- his "Leda." So what you have is a market valuation: rarity, quality, clean provenance.

Now onto Adele: Klimt is a master of the portrayal of psychological states. Perhaps most clearly in his portraits (as opposed to his mythological or allegorical paintings). A B-B I is peraps his preeminent effort -- his masterpiece. The psychological dimension or Adele, her wants, her needs, her insecurities, her desires, are expressed with exquisite care in her portrait. This is more than the wisdom of the cold goddess, Athena, or the lust of Leda or the passion of the "Kiss." It is multilayered, intense, and bursting forth from every golden detail of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. This portrait is the very apogee of psychological portraiture -- a genre that (arguably) began with da Vinci, and I do not think it has been equalled since.

Dorm rooms be damned, when I saw an amazing exhibit in 1997 in Amsterdam called Wenen 1900: Portret en interieur it literally gave me goose bumps. Two flights down (this was at the Van Gogh Museum) I had been windy winding my way around the huge crowds out to see Van Gogh, as always- hard. Upon entering the top floor though I found this showcase of Vienna Secession artists , forgetting my irritation as I was literally blown away. There were Klimts, Schieles, Kokoschkas and many of the not so well knowns such as: Moll, Gerstl, Boeckl. Klimt blew me away.

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