Modigliani Auction Breaks Record

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A statue by artist Amedeo Modigliani was sold at Christie's in Paris for $52.8 million, making it the highest-priced work ever sold at a French auction.

The sculpted stone head was the highest-priced work ever sold by the Italian artist. An anonymous buyer bid for the piece by telephone, the Associated Press reports.

Modigliani sculpted the piece - depicting an elongated head with almond-shaped eyes and flowing hair - sometime between 1910 and 1912. It is very similar to some of the artist's paintings.

Modigliani lived from 1884 to 1920, originally focused on sculpture, but switched to painting in part due to health problems. He was one of just three artists in his generation to achieve distinction in three different media: painting, sculpture and drawing. The other two were Picasso and Matisse.

But Modigliani's sculptures are rare; there are only 27 confirmed Modigliani sculptures in the world. Seventeen are at prestigious museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The work auctioned on Monday is one of only ten of Modigliani's sculptures still in private collections.

It was first sold at the Hotel Drouot in Paris in June 1927 where it was purchased by Gaston Levy, an artist and conservator who had known Modigliani since his Montmartre days.

It was the highest-priced work ever sold at a French auction, but not the world. That record was set in May, when Pablo Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" sold for $106,482,500 at Christie's in New York.

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