Long-Lost Klimt Painting Sells for $37 Million at Auction

“Portrait of Fräulein Lieser,” an enigmatic, long-lost 1917 painting by Gustav Klimt, sold Wednesday for 35 million euros with fees, or about $37 million, at the auction house im Kinsky in Vienna.

The unsigned and unfinished work was estimated to sell for between $32 million and $53 million, before the addition of fees. The winning bid was tendered in the room by Patti Wong, the founder of the Hong Kong-based art advisory company, Patti Wong Associates. Wong said she was bidding on behalf of an Asian client.

The result was remarkable, given that there are questions surrounding this Klimt portrait. The identity of the girl depicted is open to question. The auction house said in its sale catalog that it had “not been able to clarify the precise provenance of the painting” since 1925, and the identity of the seller has not been revealed. Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, known as the Anschluss, and the Nazis’ persecution of its Jewish population also casts a murky shadow over the picture’s ownership history.

“We’re very happy with the price,” Wong said in an interview shortly after the auction. When asked if she and her client had any concerns about the uncertainties surrounding the subject and ownership history of the painting, Wong said: “We’ve done our research.”

Wong is making a habit of buying multimillion-dollar Klimt paintings for Asian clients. Last June at Sotheby’s in London, she gave $108.4 million on behalf of a Hong Kong collector for Klimt’s 1918 portrait “Lady With a Fan,” a record for the artist at auction.

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