Sotheby’s has announced this morning in a live event from Hong Kong that it will be offering a Modigliani nude with an estimate in excess of $150m. The painting was the cover image of the recent Modigliani exhibition at the Tate in London.
According to Sotheby’s, 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.
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 nine 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. The painting has an irrevocable bid.
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.