Emotion and politics have brought Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I to the Neue Galerie, now the most famous piece of art looted by the Nazis to be returned to its rightful owners. The dazzling portrait of this Austrian matron of Jewish ancestry has become the very image of Nazi gold, an illegally acquired work exhibited for a half a century at the Austrian National Gallery, now returned with fanfare and the greatest sum ever paid for a work of art--$135 million--by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder to Maria Altmann, the Bloch-Bauer heiress who was awarded this painting along with four others by court order just months ago.
It is this story of ownership, rather than the value of Adele Bloch-Bauer I as a work of art itself, that is most apparent now at Neue Galerie. This work and the four other paintings awarded to Altmann are now on display at Neue, Lauder’s museum dedicated to Austrian and German modern art from 1980 to 1940, which I visted yesterday.
Today in The New York Sun, Lance Esplund considers this portrait on aesthetic grounds, and concludes that not all that glitters is gold (try searching for the article in google for full text). Also, over at Modern Art Notes, Tyler Green evaluates another painting in the Altmann collection as the real prize, the landscape Beech Woods (Birch Woods).