Modigliani's 'Nu Couché' makes $157m

May 15 2018

Video: Sotheby's

A full-length nude by Modigliani became the most expensive painting ever sold at Sotheby's tonight. But AHN wonders if there's not a wider story here, for the painting sold only to the pre-sale guarantor, at a hammer price of $139m. Before the sale, there was talk of the painting 'setting a new auction record' simply by virtue of having a record estimate of $150m. In the event, the painting didn't reach its low estimate. 

Now, it's worth pointing out that the painting made seven times what it last sold for in 2003. But it follows on from a Picasso last week - 'Young Girl with a Basket of Flowers' - which was also expected to soar away at Christie's in New York, but also sold to a pre-sale gurantor at the low estimate. Are both pictures a case of optimistic estimating? Or is there now a lack of oxygen up at the dizzying heights of the modern art market?

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