Unveiled in HK, Rare Modigliani nude sets world record $150m estimate

A painting of a nude by Amedeo Modigliani is expected to fetch $150 million, the highest ever pre-sale estimate for an artwork at auction, Sotheby’s said Tuesday as the work was unveiled in Hong Kong.

Painted in 1917, “Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)” is one of only nine Modigliani nudes in private collectors’ hands, making the sale exceptionally rare.

The 147-centimetre-wide (58-inch) oil painting is the largest of the Italian painter’s works.

It depicts a nude woman lying on her left side and looking back at the audience, and is the only one of Modigliani’s works to depict the entire naked female body on canvas.

“The piece of art is undeniably, tremendously erotic but in a way that depicts the sitter with a sexuality which is supremely confident and self-possessed,” said Simon Shaw, Co-Head Worldwide of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Department.

The painting will be offered as the highlight of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on May 14.

Sotheby’s did not disclose the identity of the seller.

The previous highest pre-sale estimate for any artwork at auction was $140 million for Pablo Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger (version O)” in 2015 at Christie’s in New York.

Another of Modigliani’s nudes was sold for $170.4 million in New York in 2015 to a Chinese collector.

The world record hammer price was broken in 2017 with the $450 million sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”. It had been estimated to sell for $100 million.

Wealthy Asian buyers have shown frenzied interest and deep pockets at art auctions in recent years, with sales of paintings, diamonds and ancient ceramics shattering world records.

“Many of the greatest works of western art from the 20th century have sold to Asian collectors in recent times, so we think unveiling the picture here is the right move,” Shaw said at the Hong Kong unveiling.

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