News » Arts & Books » Former Chinese taxi driver-turned-billionaire buys Modigliani painting for $170.4 million

Former Chinese taxi driver-turned-billionaire buys Modigliani painting for $170.4 million

Liu Yiqian wants to make Shanghai a global center for art.

By Raif Karerat

Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu Couché” (1917-18) (Wikipedia)

Liu Yiqian, a former taxi driver turned billionaire art collector, Liu Yiqian, and his wife Wang Wei bought Amedeo Modigliani’s 1917 painting of a nude “Nu Couche (Reclining Nude)” for $170.4 million, the second highest auction price ever paid for a work of art.

The priciest piece ever is a Picasso painting that sold in May at Christie’s for $179.4 million, according to Forbes.

Speaking by telephone from Shanghai, the Chinese collector said he planned to bring the work back to the city, where he and his wife have two private museums.

“We are planning to exhibit it for the museum’s fifth anniversary,” he said. “It will be an opportunity for Chinese art lovers to see good artworks without having to leave the country, which is one of the main reasons why we founded the museums.”

Liu has previously made headlines for his record-breaking purchases of Chinese art. In 2014, he demolished the record for the most expensive Chinese artwork sold at auction not once but twice, spending $36.3 million on a porcelain chicken cup — which he then proceeded to drink from — in April, followed by $45 million on a Tibetan tapestry in November, according to Artnet News.

The sultry painting attracted no less than seven bidders, with a starting price of $75 million.

“It was a sensational picture and it brought a sensational price,” Guy Jennings, managing director of the Fine Art Fund in London and Christie’s former deputy chairman of Impressionist and modern art in New York told AFP. “It was the best painting Modigliani ever made. It’s not often that you can say this about an artwork at auction.”

Forbes reported that Chinese billionaires are showing an increasing appetite for western artwork. In May Sotheby’s sold a Claude Monet painting for $20.4 million to the China’s richest person, Wang Jianlin, and a Picasso to Chinese media mogul Wang Zhongjun for $29.9 million during a New York auction.

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