As we were telling you few days ago: May auction are close, and auction house are on fierce struggle with their last shoots to impress global collectors. Sotheby’s has just announced in a live event from Hong Kong that it will be offering a Modigliani nude at next 14 May sale in NY, with an estimate in excess of $150m. The same painting just few years ago was the cover image of the recent Modigliani exhibition at the Tate in London, so that’s a very iconic piece.
According to Sotheby’s, those nudes are very rare, and we are told that there are only 22 of these nudes: In November of 2015, Liu Yiqian bought one for $170m and placed it in his Long Museum in Shanghai. Steven Cohen sold one to Yves Bouvier for $93m; Bouvier turned it around quickly to Dmitry Rybolovlev for $118m. The present work was sold at auction by Steve Wynn in 2003 for $26m. The current seller is said to be Irish horse breeder John Magnier who bought the work in 2003.
“Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)” is also one of the largest canvas ever painted by Modigliani, with a 147cm size, but moreover it is the only of his horizontal nudes which contains all the figure inside the canvas.
The Modigliani reclining nude is clearly a market indicator charting the dramatic rise in value of these works over the last 15 years: According to Sotheby’s, there are 22 of these works concentrated in New York museums where the Guggenheim, MoMA and the Met each have three examples. The Courtauld Institute has another. Only 9 of them remain in private hands.
The Hong Kong announcement indicates Sotheby’s marketing focus where private museums are being established all over the country. The subject matter does limit the appeal to Gulf state museums which are usually the focus for works at this level.
Coming directly after being featured in a major museum show as so many museum buyers contend for seminal works of art, the Modigliani reclining nude could not have a better marketing set-up and is surely going for a frightful amount of money.