Chinese former taxi driver buys $170.4m Modigliani

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  • Liu Yiqian
    Chinese businessman

New York (AFP) - The Chinese collector who bought a sensuous Modigliani nude for $170.4 million in New York is former taxi driver turned tycoon Liu Yiqian, who has founded a museum in Shanghai.

Christie's confirmed that Modigliani's "Nu Couche" was purchased by the Long museum, which Liu and his wife Wang Wei founded.

Liu Yiqian, who is one of China's biggest art collectors, told The New York Times that he had bought the painting and intended to exhibit it to mark the museum's fifth anniversary.

"It will be an opportunity for Chinese art lovers to see good artworks without having to leave the country," he was quoted as saying by the Times.

The couple founded two museums in Shanghai -- the Long Museum Pudong, which opened in 2012, and the Long Museum West Bund.

"Modigliani's works already have a pretty established value on the market," Liu told the newspaper.

"This work is relatively nice compared to his other nude paintings. And his nude paintings have been collected by some of the world's top museums."

The 1917-18 picture sold after a frantic nine-minute bidding war on the first time the painting has ever come to auction.

It was the second highest price ever achieved at auction for a work or art. Applause erupted in the packed room when the sale concluded.

It was just $9 million shy of the world record of $179.4 million for Picasso's "The Women of Algiers (Version 0)" -- which the auction house sold in New York last May in a record-breaking spring season.

The Modigliani oil on canvas depicts a naked woman reclining on a luscious red couch and blue cushion, and provoked a scandal when it was first exhibited by the Italian artist in Paris.

It has since been exhibited at some of the finest art galleries all over the world including at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The previous record for a Modigliani was $70.7 million set in November 2014 for a sculpture.

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