Have you heard? Ronald S. Lauder (yes, one of Estee’s boys) just dropped a record $135 million on a painting! Okay, let’s break this down. First of all, if you can shell out $135 million for ANYTHING, let alone a painting, you’re set for life. But what actually makes a painting (or anything else) worth $135 million? More on that in a moment.
There is a lot of press surrounding this recent sale. A painting brings in the highest recorded price for a work, This in itself is newsworthy but the thing that seems to have the art world in a spin is the fact that the painting was not a Picasso or a Monet but a Klimt. This article from absolute arts is one of the more engaging of the articles out and it poses an interesting question: What makes a painting worth $35 Million?
I would like to add my views to the already huge amount of articles on this subject. Klimt is known for one painting really, When you think of Klimt you think of The Kiss. The strong geometric shapes, the bold tones and of course the gold leafing. But, as this recent sale proves, he wasn’t just a one hit wonder.
The portrait is surrounded by history. It is, in fact, a poignant piece of that World War II romance. Klimt might have been overshadowed by peers such as Dali and Picasso, but the subject matter alone makes for a fascinating treatment. Then you add the fact that the technique is a completely original treatment of portrait matter. Klimt also released much fewer works, of course raising market rarity.
I think rather than asking ‘why Klimt’ the question should be ‘Why Not?’ why has Klimt not received kudos up till now? Everyone knows The Kiss, but not many seem to know his name. Was his misfortune to be painting in an era when there were other pioneers? was it that his work was too different to fit in with the art movements of the time? falling between the cracks of the unclassifiable. And does this make his artwork less valid as a result?