The art world is buzzing about Christie’s recent “Artist’s Muse” auction, which offered 34 masterpieces and realized nearly $500 million in sales.
Five world auction records were broken and checkbooks were steaming after Christie’s “Artist’s Muse” auction on November 9. With sales totaling $491,252,000, 12 of the 34 modern masterpieces hammered for more than $10 million.
Leading the way in sales and the night in general was Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu couché (Reclining Nude)” of 1917-1918. The erotic painting was the source of quite a stir and controversy when it was first exhibited during Modigliani’s one and only show at the Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris. Outraged at the nudity and the overt sexuality of the painting, police demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition. “The painting is one of a series of great female nudes made for Léopold Zborowski,” Christie’s reports.
Roy Lichtenstein, “Nurse,” 1964, oil and magna on canvas, (c) Christie’s, New York 2015
The price? Hammering for a whopping $170,405,000, “Nu couché” eclipsed Modigliani’s previous auction records by nearly $100 million. Furthermore, the price was the second highest ever paid for a work of art. Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’),” was sold in May 2015 for $179,364,992 and currently holds the record.
As Lot 8A, Modigliani’s bank-buster price characterized and foreshadowed what was to come. Roy Lichtenstein’s “Nurse” of 1964 realized $95,365,000; Gustave Courbet’s “Femme nue couchée” sold for $15,285,000; Baltus’s “Lady Abdy” sold for $9,909,000; and Paul Gauguin’s “Thérése” of 1902 realized $30,965,000.