From Vienna to New York: Adele Bloch-Bauer

I previously wrote that the movie The Woman in Gold and the story of “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” inspired me to travel to Vienna and recently I finally made it to the Neue Galerie on New York City’s Upper East Side.

Once I was in Vienna, I hopped on the tram and one of the first places I went was 18 Elisabethstrasse, aka Adele Bloch-Bauer’s home across the street from the Academy of the Fine Arts (the school that rejected Hitler) and Schillerpark. Not to mention that it’s less than two blocks away from Museum of Natural History and the Kunsthistoriches Museums.

Adele Bauer was from a wealthy Jewish Viennese family, her father ran a bank in Vienna. When she was 18, her parents arranged for her to marry Ferdinand Bloch, who was 35 at the time and also a banker, as well as the owner of a sugar factory. Adele and Ferdinand were pretty progressive for their time because they both changed their last names to Bloch-Bauer after they married. #feminism

They were a socially well-connected couple and regularly hosted writers, politicians, and artists in their salon in 18 Elisabethstrasse. They were also avid art collectors and the Nazi looting of their apartment was one of the greatest heists of the war. Their apartment was turned into the headquarters for the railway station, I believe. They looted the apartment, in part, because they’d accused Ferdinand of tax evasion after he’d escaped to Switzerland (Adele had died in 1925).

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The portrait hung in the Belvedere Gallery 1941 under the name “The Lady in Gold” since “Bloch-Bauer” was a Jewish name. After the war, the painting stayed in the Belvedere until one of Adele’s nieces, Maria Altman, sued to regain ownership of her family’s looted paintings and won. In 2005, Maria Altman, with the help of her lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg, won the lawsuit against the Austrian government in United States Federal Court and in 2006 the paintings were sent to Los Angeles, where Altman lived. This portrait was sold to the Neue Galerie in 2006 for a record-breaking $135 million and it still lives there today. There’s so much more to this story than what I’ve written, so you can check out more here if you’d like and you should.

The main photo above is a replica that is allowed to be photographed and sits in the lower level of the Neue Galerie as photos of the original aren’t allowed. However, I was able to sneak one quick photo from outside the main room of the gallery.

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The room was filled with other works of Klimt but the Portrait is what the gallery is centered around. The upper floors showcases photographs and paintings from Austria and Germany before World War II. If you’d like to visit the Neue Galerie, check out their website here.

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