About a week ago, Sotheby's sent out invitations to collectors and media to an unveiling event of "a defining masterpiece that worth waiting for". Last night, the painting was revealed. Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), estimated to sell for in excess of US$150m, carries the highest estimate ever placed on a work of art at auction. Looking familiar? You may recognize it as the cover star of Tate Modern’s recent Modigliani retrospective.
The auction house has kept the whole consignment in strict confidence. Little information was known to anyone invited. There were only two things that we knew for sure. 1. It is a Western artwork. 2. It was going to be unveiled in Hong Kong. That’s it. Could it be a painting by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet or Vincent van Gough? We had no idea.
At 7:00, 30 minutes before the official unveiling, the viewing room was already packed with a huge group of audience. In front of the curtain where the painting was hidden behind, there was a small studio setup with easel, brushes, palette, and packs of cigarette. It was likely to be a reproduction of the venue where the painting was created. Still, these clues were so ambiguous and there was no definite sign suggesting a particular artist.
At 7:30, Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby's Asia and Simon Shaw, Co-Head Worldwide of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department jointly revealed the hyped masterpiece – Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche).
As described in the official statement, "Nu couché is an incredibly sensual image, with the sitter’s gaze meeting the viewer’s head-on in truly mesmerizing fashion. While situating itself within a classical canon of nude painting, the work is radically innovative in style: Modigliani assimilates a world of visual cultures across the centuries, from Egyptian, Japanese, African, Indian and Iberian sculpture, from Renaissance frescoes through Romanticism to the cutting-edge of Cubism. Together these pictures signal a watershed in perhaps the greatest tradition in art – there is the nude before Modigliani, and there is the nude after Modigliani.”
The majority of the 22 reclining nudes from Modigliani’s nude series are found in museums, with particular depth in the United States: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each hold three examples.
The present lot, measuring nearly 147 centimeters across, is the largest painting of Modigliani’s entire oeuvre. It is also the only one of his horizontal nudes to contain the entire figure within the canvas.
Kevin Ching ｜CEO of Sotheby's Asia
Brooke Lampley｜Vice Chairman of Sotheby's Fine Arts Division
We have invited representatives from Sotheby's to talk about the history of this painting and the Asian market's appetite for Western artworks. Please stay tuned for our interview with Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby's Asia and Brooke Lampley, Vice Chairman of Sotheby's Fine Arts Division.
For visitors who would like to take a look at this masterpiece with the highest price tag ever, Nu couché will be on display in Sotheby's Gallery in Hong Kong on 25 and 26 April. It will then head to New York and go up for auction on 14 May.
Amedeo Modigliani. Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)
Lot no.: 18
Created in: 1917
Size: 89.5 x 146.7cm
- Léopold Zborowski, Paris (acquired from the artist)
- Jonas Netter, Paris (acquired by 1926)
- Private Collection, Paris (by descent from the above)
- Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above and sold: Christie’s, New York, November 4, 2003, lot 29)
- Acquired at the above sale
Auction house: Sotheby's New York
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Lots offered: 46
2018/5/4 - 5｜10am - 5pm
2018/5/6｜1pm - 5pm
2018/5/7 - 12｜10am - 5pm
2018/5/13｜1pm - 5pm
2018/5/14｜10am - 1pm