Klimt’s “Bauerngarten” – A $59m “Trump Effect” Barometer?

Last month, I profiled the growing popularity of Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) among art collectors, along with the role one of his works has played in post-WWII art restoration.

The inspiration was the excitement surrounding the offering of Klimt’s Bauerngarten (Blumengarten), painted in 1907 near Lake Attersee, Austria, in the March 1st sale at Sotheby’s, London. The pre-sale estimate topped $45 million.

Animating the excitement – and set against a contracting market throughout 2016, was the hope, or some would say perception of a renewed optimism in the rarified air of the high-end art market, which has come to be known as the “Trump effect.”

Well, Bauerngarten did not disappoint, realizing $59 million with the buyer’s premium and other fees. It was sold to a German-speaking telephone bidder, one of four telephone bidders in fact, with two of the others reportedly Asian collectors.

Sotheby’s had purchased the work before the auction from its previous owner, David Graham, and the sale was guaranteed by a third party’s ‘irrevocable bid.’

Complex arrangements like this are more common today, deployed to pull higher value works to the open market and away from private dealers who obviously represent an existential threat to international auction houses.

And not only was Bauerngarten a successful sale, but the strength of realized prices across Sotheby’s entire $239 million auction, alongside a sale at Christie’s the night before pointed to a confirmed sense of investor confidence in the art market.

After the sale, the co-head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department and chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, Helena Newman, declared the evening “a statement on the momentum of the global art market in 2017.”

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