248klimt.jpgOwned by Jews in Vienna, looted by the Nazis, returned to Austria, fought over for years, and then restored to the rightful owner, Maria Altmann in LA… and now bought by Ronald S. Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics empire and world’s greatest collector of modern German and Austrian art. According to the NY times

Although confidentiality agreements surrounding the sale forbid Mr. Lauder to disclose the price, experts familiar with the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he paid $135 million for the work. In a telephone interview Mr. Lauder did not deny that he had paid a record amount for the painting, eclipsing the $104.1 million paid for Picasso’s 1905 “Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)” in an auction at Sotheby’s in 2004.

“This is our Mona Lisa,” said Mr. Lauder, a founder of the five-year-old Neue Galerie, a tiny museum at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street devoted entirely to German and Austrian fine and decorative arts. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition.”

Mr. Lauder, besides his amazing collection of art, also has spent an entire fortune rebuilding Jewish life in Nazi-destroyed Central and Eastern Europe.

So now the most expensive painting in the world is of—a Jewish lady! The painting is actually a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist and the hostess of a prominent Vienna salon. It is one of Klimt’s finest, if not THE finest painting he ever made.

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Rabbi Yonah

25 Comments

  • Beautiful. Love Klimt 🙂
    Is it really considered one of hi finest by those in the know? I’m not qualified to make that kind of assessment, but it’s not one of my favorites. I bet if The Kiss or Judith I was for sale they might fetch more. Nearly all his portraits are breath-taking, though. At any rate it’s good to know that his work is so valued, though it kind of dashes any hope of ever having one. Alack.

  • mmm, yeah. THE finest is probably a stretch. THE most significant for the reasons outlined above, more probable. he’s got some real doozies that you can only see in special collections or compilations that make this one look a bit pedestrian by comparison. and let’s not forget the tree of life, a quasi-biblical image that all of us can relate to…

  • I’m conflicted. The painting is magnificent, as is the entire Neue Galerie. But… I can’t help feeling like, gevald, what he could have done with 135 million dollars. Can one painting really be worth that much?

  • Love it and Estee was one of the all time greatest female Entrepenuers in American and Jewish History…can anybody rock out the names a few more Female Jewish business women…

  • Estee was not particularly associated with a Jewish Community during the years in which she was building her company, yet her son Ronald, somehow became something of a BT.

  • No one cares what level of observance Ron or Estee have or had when they are accepting tzekaka from their Foundations, Jobber.

  • Wow, “our Mona Lisa”. I never thought of it that way, but I totally agree. I love Klimt’s works. 🙂 It fills me with pride to know that one of Gustav Klimt’s finest works is the portrait of a Jewish woman, one that unfortunately perished in the Holocaust. I wonder if I’m related to the Altmanns… I guess if I go far back enough. 🙂

  • Ronald’s a mensch, and no amount of money spent on a piece of art would take away from the immense effort he’s put towards the Jewish communities in CE and FSU. Besides, he’s in the midst of some business I am familiar with that will probably net him at least twice the amount of the painting.

  • This helps piece back together that others would have left to be destroyed and forgotten.

  • Estee’s Mother had a French Catholic mother…would any of you care to disown her now? Do I hear a shout out for Helena Rubenstein?

  • Not so fast, Chutzpah. Although she did state that her mother was half Catholic (on the mother’s side), there may be some room to believe this was not the case. From what I understand, some people claimed she was Catholic over the course of her life, and she apparently played along to some degree. There are conflicting stories about how she grew up and her version seems to have made things appear a tad more urbane than they may have been in reality. This info about her mother came out in an authorized biography which she sponsored after an unauthorized bio came out and depicted her upbringing as being very working class.

    One thing that is of interest to me is that she’s of Hungarian origin. Add to that Soros and Reichmann and you’ve got some fairly impressive successful businesspeople of Hungarian Jewish origin. Now if only I could emulate them a tad more successfully than at this current time (I’m not complaining, just, you know, hoping for more), I’d be doing my heritage a big favor. Not to mention my family.

  • No worries here Middle, she amassed enough wealth to acquire genuine & full MOT status according to all branches of Judaism without the Super-Ortho-Deluxe mikveh conversion. In English it’s the the “Millionaire Legal Fiction”, or in yiddish “eh, a little shiksa blood somewhere, nish kavelach”.

  • BTW, this thread and painting remind me of my all time favorite tasteless JAP Joke:

    How did the JAP get her partner to come into money?
    She goldplated her diaphragm!

  • that should read, Nisht Geferlach. I’m not sure what the point is though. A daily need to bash?

  • “One thing that is of interest to me is that she’s of Hungarian origin. Add to that Soros and Reichmann and you’ve got some fairly impressive successful businesspeople of Hungarian Jewish origin. Now if only I could emulate them a tad more successfully than at this current time (I’m not complaining, just, you know, hoping for more), I’d be doing my heritage a big favor. Not to mention my family.”

    I think Andy Grove deserves pre-eminence above the Reichmanns who have struggled with bankruptcy.

  • Andy grove is another prime example. I wouldn’t make it a competition among them though. The Reichmanns went bankrupt for a variety of reasons, many of them unrelated to poor business acumen. They went from owning a small tile business to a $30 billion real estate empire that was in its time the largest in the world. They did this as visibly Orthodox Jews whose businesses did not run on the Sabbath and they did it out of Canada which has a far smaller business market than that of the US. I’d say they were competitive with Grove and Soros.

  • Oh, I didn’t mean to talk down the Reichmanns–I owe my wife’s willingness to keep kosher to them–but rather to throw Andy into the pile. As a Transylvanian married to a Budapester, I certainly am happy to call attention any Hungarian Jews, especially observant or at least non-self-hating Jews (unlike Soros) doing well.

  • the most expensive painting in the world in 2013 represents three jewish ladies :
    “les fumeuses d’opium”

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