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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 10:03 GMT
Klimt crowns record art auction
Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer II (detail)
The painting was returned to the family of the model this year
A sale of Impressionist and 20th century art in New York has made more than $491m (255m), breaking the record for an art auction.

A 1912 portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt fetched almost $88m (45m).

The painting was one of five Klimt works looted by the Nazis and returned to their owners earlier this year.

A Picasso, due to be sold by Andrew Lloyd Webber, was withdrawn at the last minute after disputes over ownership.

Christopher Burge, chief auctioneer at Christie's, underlined the scale of the sale's success.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "It was the most extraordinary auction I've been involved in."

Legal dispute

Paul Gauguin's Man with an Axe fetched $40.3m (21m) - a record for the French master, while a work by Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele went for $22.4m (11.6m).

But it was four works by Klimt that dominated the sale, doubling their estimates by fetching a total of $192m (99.8m).

Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto
Lord Lloyd Webber bought the painting for 18m in 1995

In addition to the Bloch-Bauer portrait, Birch Forest went for $40.3m (21m), Houses at Unterach on the Attersee fetched nearly $31.4m (16.3m) and Apple Tree I sold for $33m (17.2m).

All four works were returned to Maria Altmann, the Los Angeles-based niece of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, earlier this year following a protracted legal dispute.

In June New York's Neue Galerie is reported to have paid $135m for the fifth looted Klimt portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I.

The withdrawn 1903 Picasso, Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto, has been owned by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation since 1995.

But German Julius Schoeps has alleged one of his ancestors, Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, was forced to sell the work at well below its true value under Nazi oppression in 1934.

A New York judge dismissed Schoeps' court challenge on Tuesday, but Christie's said further legal manoeuvres had forced it to withdraw the portrait from the sale.

'Record price' for Klimt portrait
19 Jun 06 |  Entertainment
Auction for recovered Klimt works
08 Aug 06 |  Entertainment
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03 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
Disputed Picasso auction halted
09 Nov 06 |  Entertainment

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