The overall running total of the sales was £254m with a number of day sales still to run at the time of going to press.
As expected, Klimt’s Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) led the series by some distance. Estimated ‘in the region of £65m’ at Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary art evening sale on June 27, the auction house had arranged an ‘irrevocable bid’ on the lot in advance of the sale (in effect a third-party guarantee), meaning it was always bound to sell on the night.
The picture drew four bidders, two in the room and two on the phone. After the price reached £68m, it came down to a battle between art adviser Patti Wong, formerly Sotheby’s international chairman, who was sitting at the front of the saleroom, and a determined underbidding on the phone to Sotheby’s deputy chairman of Asia and chairman of China Jen Hua.
Wong won at £74m. Sotheby’s said that she was bidding on behalf of a client in Hong Kong.
The painting had an aesthetic that clearly appealed to Asian bidders with elements of Japonisme as well as featuring several Chinese motifs including the phoenix, a symbol of immortality and rebirth, and lotus blossoms signifying love.
The price broke the 13 year-old auction record for a work sold in Europe which had stood since Alberto Giacometti’s (1901-66) sculpture L’Homme qui Marche I had made £58m in the same room in 2010.
Dame mit Fächer was one of only a small number of portraits by Klimt still in private hands and had last appeared on the market in 1994 when it sold at Sotheby’s New York for $10.6m (£7.1m). The buyer back then was a member of the current vendor’s family.
At least two portraits by Klimt have sold for more privately: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I which was bought by Ronald Lauder for $135m in a deal brokered by Christie’s in 2006 and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, sold by Oprah Winfrey to a Chinese buyer for $150m in 2016.
The overall total for the Sotheby’s sale was £190.3m with 50 of the 59 lots selling (85%).
Meanwhile, Christie’s 20th/21st century art sale on June 28 raised £63.8m including premium with 61 of the 66 lots sold (92%).
It was led by a Paul Signac view of Saint-Tropez titled Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer) which was knocked down at £6.7m.
Estimated at £5.5m-8m, it dated from 1896 and the shimmering pointillist landscape was one of the 13 works in the sale for which the auction house had arranged third-party guarantees.