On Tuesday in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s staged a dramatic reveal of this auction season’s star lot: Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) (1917). The piece, one of only a few of the artist’s reclining nudes left in private hands, will hit the block during Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale in New York on May 14th. The $150 million estimate is guaranteed by an irrevocable bid, insuring that the work will not go without a buyer. The piece could smash the current Modigliani record, set in 2015 when Liu Yiqian, the Chinese taxi driver-turned-billionaire investor, snagged Nu Couché (Reclining Nude) (1917-1918) for $170.4 million at Christie’s New York. Yiqian paid with his American Express Centurion Card.
The consignor of Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) is reportedly horse breeder John Magnier. When the work was last sold at Christie’s in November of 2003, four bidders propelled it to a final price of $26.8 million, above the $25 million estimate. Magnier emerged the ultimate winner in that bidding war, the Irish Times and The Telegraph both reported. At the time, Carol Vogel of the New York Times identified the seller as Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn, who had bought it privately in the mid-1990s for almost $10 million more than the selling price.