Modigliani nude painting sells for $170.4m in New York

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A painting by Italian artist Modigliani was sold at auction on Monday for $170.4m (P1.86b), the second-highest price ever for a work sold at auction.

Nu couche (Reclining Nude) was sold at Christie's in New York to a Chinese collector.

It had never been sold at auction before, having been in the same private collection for about 60 years.

The top price achieved for an art work at auction was Picasso's Les femmes d'Alger which sold for $179m (£118.5m).

That was also sold at Christie's in May this year.

Nu couche, painted during 1917 and 1918, was estimated to fetch more than $100m before the auction took place. The price achieved was also a record for the artist.

Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian confirmed to the New York Times that he had purchased the painting.

About half a dozen bidders competed for the Modigliani at the sale, which also included 33 other works, such as Paul Gauguin's sculpture Therese, which sold for $30,965,000 (£20,502,440).

Roy Lichtenstein's Nurse, fetched $95,365,000 (£63,123,067), a new world auction record for the artist and was the second-biggest seller of the night.

The sale took an auction total of $494.4m (£327.3m) but it was not all good news - nearly 30% of the works up for grabs went unsold, including Lucian Freud's Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa, which was estimated at as much as $30m (£19.85m) but failed to sell.

Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie's global president said the sale of Nu couche was "well-deserved recognition for the artist to have realised a price $100m higher than any other (Modigliani) work previously offered at auction".

Referencing the sale's unsold lots, Pylkkanen said that was the risk of "pushing the envelope" and pointed out that some works were either not fresh to the market, or were perhaps aggressively priced.

While Picasso and Modigliani are the top two sales at auction, the most expensive work of art ever sold was a Paul Gauguin work which fetched $300m earlier this year. Nafea Faa Ipoipo, or When Will You Marry? was painted in 1892 and was sold privately.

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