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Avslutter dagen med tidenes dyreste: Gustav Klimts «Adele Bloch-Bauer I.» (1907) gikk for 135 millioner dollar, en ufattelig sum. Kjøper er kosmetikk-kongen Ronald S. Lauder, som for fem år siden åpnet et lite galleri på Manhatten.

Bildets historie er en saga i seg selv.

The portrait, of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist and the hostess of a prominent Vienna salon, is considered one of the artist’s masterpieces.
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With its sinuous lines and intricate details, the painting, «Adele Bloch-Bauer I,» was commissioned by the subject’s husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. Mrs. Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis in 1925 at 43. In her will she requested that the painting and four others by Klimt that the couple owned be left to Austria upon her husband’s death. But when Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, Mr. Bloch-Bauer fled, leaving all of his possessions behind. The Nazi government confiscated his property, placed three of the paintings in the Austrian Gallery and sold the rest.

Before Mr. Bloch-Bauer died, in November 1945, having spent the war years in Switzerland, he revoked all previous wills and drafted a new one. Since he and Adele had no children, he left his entire estate to three children of his brother Gustav: Robert, Luise and Maria.

Of the three, only Maria Altmann is still living: she and her husband, Fritz, fled Austria during the war and settled in Los Angeles in 1942. She has a niece and two nephews; a cousin of her brother’s second wife also survives.
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That Mrs. Altmann and her relatives have possession of the painting is a tale of perseverance and tenacity. After the war the family tried to regain their stolen possessions, including the paintings, porcelains, palaces and the sugar company founded by Mr. Bloch-Bauer. Much of the artwork was divided up among the top Nazis, including Hitler and Hermann Göring; Reinhardt Hedrick, a Nazi commander, occupied a summer palace owned by Mr. Bloch-Bauer outside Prague.

The heirs were able to recover some of the works, but the Austrian authorities ruled that Mrs. Bloch-Bauer’s will had essentially bequeathed the Klimts to Austria. Without access to the original documents, the family had no case.

Men i januar 2004 avgjorde USAs Høyesterett at fru Altmann kunne saksøke Østerrike for en amerikanske domstol. I januar i år avgjorde en voldgiftdomstol i Østerrike at Altmann skulle få tilbake fire Klimt-bilder. Snart strømmet tilbudene på fra verdens museer og gallerier.

Lauder Pays $135 Million, a Record, for a Klimt Portrait