Modigliani nude fetches $157.2m at Sotheby’s – setting auction house record

The Guardian | Edward Helmore

Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), a reclining nude by the modernist master Amadeo Modigliani, fetched $157.2m in New York on Monday night – the highest price in Sotheby’s history. But it failed to beat the $170m record set for the artist three years ago. Sotheby’s auctioneer Helena Newman led a packed salesroom bidding that started at $125m but stalled at $139m, well short of the 2015 record of $170m (including fees) for another nude, Nu couché (Reclining Nude), at rival Christie’s. The painting, one of the largest works Modigliani ever made and one of only five of his nudes ever to come up for auction, was hoped to be able to reassure the market that in an industry increasingly concerned with contemporary painters early 20th -entury masterpieces are again finding favor. That was emphatically true for Modigliani, whose prices have for years lagged behind peers like Picasso and Monet.

After a successful $833m sale of items from David Rockefeller’s estate last week,Nu couché was widely predicted to be a singular star of the New York spring auction season. Painted in 1917, three years before Modigliani’s death at the age of 35, the picture caused a scandal when exhibited at Modigliani’s first and only solo show at Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris that year. When a crowd formed outside the gallery to gawp at the works, the police demanded the immediate closure of the show. The painting was reportedly consigned by the Irish horse breeder and trainer John Magnier, who’d picked up the work in 2003 at Christie’s for $26.9m. On that occasion it was placed at auction by the casino mogul Steve Wynn…read more

Image: The 1917 oil painting Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani