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Returned Klimt paintings head to auction

The four remaining paintings by Gustav Klimt at the centre of a legal battle between the Austrian government and the heirs of the original Jewish owners will be heading to Christie's this fall, the auction house announced Monday.

The four remaining paintings by Gustav Klimt at the centre of a legal battle between the Austrian government and the heirs of the original Jewish owners will be heading to Christie's this fall, the auction house announced Monday.

The three landscapes and a portrait — worth an estimated $100 million US — will either be auctioned or sold privately, said Steven Thomas, the lawyer representing the heirs.

The four paintings and one of Klimt's most famous works — a portrait of Viennese art patron Adele Bloch-Bauer from 1907 known as Golden Adele — are on display at cosmetics mogul Ronald Lauder's Neue Gallerie in New York, a museum dedicated to German and Austrian art.

Lauder purchased Golden Adele in June for a reported $135 million, breaking the previous listed world art record sale of $104.2 million US for a Picasso.

Maria Altmann of Los Angeles — Bloch-Bauer's niece — and her family members won ownership of the paintings in January following a seven-year legal battle with the Austrian government.

The Klimt paintings, stolen by Nazis in 1938, previously hung in Vienna's Belvedere museum.

Bloch-Bauer's heirs are selling the paintings because of the cost and effort needed to maintain and protect the art, their lawyer said.

"The family worked very hard to get back what had been stolen from them. These paintings are extremely valuable and require lots of security, and none of the heirs are in a position to keep the paintings, as much as they might want to," said Thomas.

With files from Associated Press

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