NEW YORK - A Modigliani nude painting was sold to an unnamed Chinese buyer at Christie's on Monday for $170.4 million, the second-highest price ever for a work of art at auction, as deep-pocketed collectors continue to pay, and pay big, for some rare masterpieces up for sale in this year's autumn auctions season.
The final price for the 1917-18 portrait "Nu couché" (Reclining Nude) - under the hammer for the first time ever - was second only to Picasso's "Les femmes d'Alger" (Women of Algiers) which sold for $179 million at Christie's in May.
While the buyer was not identified, Christie's said the painting was bought by a private Chinese collector. Asian collectors have been especially active in the art market for the past several seasons.
Some half-dozen bidders competed for the canvas, which had remained in the same private collection for some 60 years and was offered as the highlight of a specially curated "Artist's Muse" sale comprising 34 works in total.
In a packed salesroom marked by deliberate but determined competition, bidding started at $75 million - already more than Modigliani's auction record of $70.7 million - and ticked upwards in $5 million increments before an unidentified telephone bidder prevailed at $152 million.
The final price was $170,405,000 including Christie's' commission of just over 12 percent. The auction house had estimated the canvas would fetch more than $100 million.