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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
'Record price' for Klimt portrait
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
Adele Bloch-Bauer was the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist
A portrait by Gustav Klimt that was looted by Nazis during World War II has reportedly sold for a record price.

The New York Times said the city's Neue Galerie paid $135m (73m) for the oil painting in a private sale.

The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer was sold after a court ordered the Austrian government to return the 1907 painting to Ms Bloch-Bauer's heir in January.

Picasso's Boy With a Pipe, which fetched $104.1m (56.3m) in 2004, holds the record for art sold at auction.

The Klimt sale was subject to a confidentiality agreement but family lawyer Steven Thomas confirmed it had exceeded the Picasso record.

The Neue Galerie, a New York museum of German and Austrian art, was co-founded by cosmetics mogul Ronald S Lauder.

Ms Bloch-Bauer's niece Maria Altmann, 90, said: "It was important for the heirs and for my aunt Adele that her work be displayed in a museum."

Maria Altmann in front of a reproduction of a Gustav Klimt portrait of her aunt, which she claims from Austria
Maria Altmann's family fled Austria when the Nazis took power
The portrait and four other looted Klimt pictures had been displayed in a gallery in Vienna for more than 60 years.

They were returned to Ms Altmann earlier this year after a protracted legal battle.

Ms Bloch-Bauer died in 1925, but her family was forced to flee Austria when the Nazis took power.

A 1998 law in Austria required museums to return art seized by the Nazis.

Austria believed it was entitled to the paintings because Ms Bloch-Bauer had specified in her will that her husband should donate the works to an Austrian gallery upon his death.

But Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who died in exile in 1945, wanted them to go to his family.

Arbitration

Ms Altmann filed legal action in the US in 2000 but the Austrian government repeatedly tried to have the case dismissed.

In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Ms Altmann's favour and, following arbitration, the Austrian government awarded all five paintings to Ms Altmann and her family in January.

Last year, the family received $21m (12m) as part of a settlement to compensate victims of the Nazis.

The paintings will go on display at the Neue Galerie next month. Mr Lauder called it a "once-in-a-lifetime acquisition".

Born in 1862, Art Nouveau master Klimt is one of Austria's most celebrated painters. His renowned painting The Kiss (1908) hangs in the Belvedere gallery in Vienna.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the Klimt portrait that broke the record



SEE ALSO
E-mail prompts removal of Klimts
21 Jan 06 |  Entertainment
Klimt art row goes to arbitration
19 May 05 |  Entertainment
US ruling over 'looted' Nazi art
08 Jun 04 |  Americas
Picasso painting sells for $104m
06 May 04 |  Entertainment
The art gems that broke the bank
07 Apr 06 |  Entertainment

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