NEW YORK, United States—A Chinese collector snapped up a sensuous Modigliani nude for $170.4 million in New York, setting a new world record price at auction for the Italian artist in a bumper Christie’s sale.
The evening auction also set world auction records for US pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, whose “Nurse” fetched $95.37 million, as well as for 19th century French painter Gustave Courbet.
It raked in a total of $491.35 million, busting pre-sale estimates of $443 million marking a return to form after a sluggish opening auction at Sotheby’s suggested that bumper profits might be levelling off.
Modigliani’s “Nu Couche” or “Reclining Nude,” painted in 1917-18, sold after a frantic nine-minute bidding war between seven would-be buyers on the first time the painting has ever come to auction.
It was the second highest price ever achieved at auction for a work or art and applause erupted in the packed room when the sale concluded—clinched by a Chinese buyer on the telephone, Christie’s said.
It was just $9 million shy of the world record of $179.4 million for Picasso’s “The Women of Algiers (Version 0)”—which the auction house sold in New York last May in a record-breaking spring season.
The Modigliani oil on canvas depicts a naked woman reclining on a luscious red couch and blue cushion, and provoked a scandal when it was first exhibited by the Italian artist in Paris.
A crowd gathered outside the window and outraged police ordered the exhibition to shut down immediately.
“We are in a masterpiece market,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, who led the auction, adding that the rare and important works on offer “created a huge amount of energy and biding.”
The painting has exhibited in some of the finest art galleries all over the world including at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
The previous record for a Modigliani was $70.7 million set in November 2014 for a sculpture.
The evening sale entitled “The Artist’s Muse” also set a new record at auction for Lichtenstein, with his “Nurse” selling for $95.37 million.
That made it a shrewd investment for the seller, who acquired the iconic piece of American pop art and comic book-inspired portrait for $1.65 million in 1995.
The price reached for the shocked looking blonde with sexy red lips smashed the previous record for a Lichtenstein—$56 million paid for “Women with Flowered Hat” in 2013.
Simple yet mysterious, the painting, measuring 48 by 48 inches (122 by 122 centimeters) appears as fresh today as when it was painted in 1964, and the image remains popular across the world.
It comes from the height of the US pop art movement and is a regular in retrospectives on Lichtenstein, who died in 1997.
Monday’s sale follows record-breaking sales in New York in May, when more than $2.6 billion of art was sold in 10 days.
A Courbet “Femme Nue Couchee” sold for $15.29 million—four times higher than the artist’s previous record of $3.74 million.
Another highlight was a work in wood by Paul Gauguin, “Therese,” which fetched $30.97 million, setting a new world auction record for a sculpture by the French artist.
Another standout was a Paul Cezanne, “L’homme a la pipe” which went for $20.89 million.
But 10 lots failed to sell, including a nude portrait of Bella Freud, the fashion designer daughter of British painter Lucian Freud, which was estimated to be worth $20-30 million.