Gustav Klimt’s rediscovered masterpiece, Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, to tour the world, including potential Hong Kong exhibition

Picture credit: © Auktionshaus im Kinsky GmbH, Wien

10th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) A long-lost painting by Gustav Klimt, the renowned Austrian modernist and master of Viennese art Nouveau, has recently been rediscovered, causing a sensation in the art world. The artwork, titled Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, is one of Klimt’s last works and was believed to be lost for nearly a century. Surprisingly, it has been in the possession of an Austrian citizen as part of a private collection since 1918, unbeknownst to the public.

The painting, which belongs to Klimt’s series of portraits of upper-middle-class women at the turn of the century, had only been documented in catalogues as a black-and-white photograph in the archives of the Austrian National Library. As a result, its vibrant colors have never been seen until now.

Before its auction at the Viennese auction house im Kinsky on 224th April, the Portrait of Fräulein Lieser will embark on a global tour, making stops in art hubs worldwide, including Switzerland, Germany, the UK, and potentially Hong Kong. There is a possibility that the exhibition may coincide with Hong Kong art month, but further updates are yet to be announced.

The painting’s disappearance for a century added to its mystique. Last seen in public in 1925, it remained unseen until its recent rediscovery. Gustav Klimt, known for his iconic painting The Kiss, had not completed the portrait before his death in 1918 due to a stroke. It was subsequently passed on to the Lieser family and exhibited in 1925 but disappeared from public view thereafter.

In 2022, an anonymous Austrian citizen approached im Kinsky auction house expressing their desire to sell the painting. Following identification of the artwork as Portrait of Fräulein Lieser, the art world was captivated by the news.

“The rediscovery of this portrait, one of the most beautiful of Klimt’s last creative period, is a sensation,” stated im Kinsky in a press release. “A painting of such rarity, artistic significance, and value has not been available on the art market in Central Europe for decades.”

The current owner explained that his family acquired the Klimt painting in the 1960s, passing it down through generations until it reached him. However, the whereabouts of the artwork between 1925 and the 1960s remain unclear. im Kinsky’s investigation found no evidence of the painting being looted, confiscated, or taken out of Austria during the Nazi era.

Adhering to the Washington Principles, an international agreement to return Nazi-looted art to the rightful descendants of its owners, im Kinsky will conduct the auction of Portrait of Fräulein Lieser on behalf of the current owners and the legal successors of the Lieser family. The painting is expected to fetch around US$54 million (approximately HK$422 million) during the auction.

Before the auction takes place, art enthusiasts worldwide will have the opportunity to view Portrait of Fräulein Lieser as it embarks on its global tour. The painting will be exhibited in Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, and potentially Hong Kong. Though the specific dates and locations are yet to be announced, there are indications that the exhibition may coincide with Hong Kong Arts Month in March, adding further excitement to the art scene.