Mayor of Modigliani’s Hometown Says $170 Million Masterpiece Should Have Been Kept in Italy
Italy missed the chance to own an iconic 'national treasure.'
Filippo Nogarin, mayor of Livorno, the Italian hometown of Amedeo Modigliani, hasn’t taken too kindly to the record-shattering sale of the artist’s masterpiece Nu couché, calling it a “missed opportunity” for Italy.
The voluptuous nude, painted in 1917-18, was bought for $170.4 million last Monday by the Chinese collector Liu Yiqian, who won the bid by telephone at Christie’s New York Evening Sale of 20th Century art, focused on the theme of “The Artist’s Muse.”
Liu and his wife Wang Wei have plans to take the masterpiece—now the second-most expensive artwork ever sold at auction—to be displayed at their Long Museum in Shanghai. Launched in 2012 with a space in the Pudong district, the museum expanded last year with a second branch, called West Bund, in the city’s Xuhui district, thus becoming China’s largest private museum.
“Our museum is just two to three years old and currently houses mostly Chinese traditional culture,” Liu told the Wall Street Journal of the Modigliani purchase. “This is a great opportunity for us to collect a world masterpiece and will bring our museum to a new era.”
“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,” the collector told the New York Times.
Nogarin, however, seems to have missed the memo about Liu’s philanthropic activities. “I am displeased that it went to a private person because I think it should have been given to a museum so that it could be seen by everyone,” he told the press, according to the Guardian. “Its beauty could have affected many people and now that may not happen.”
Before its sale last week, Nu couché had been off the market for nearly 30 years, as part of a private collection. The painting’s first owner was Modigliani’s Polish-born, Paris-based patron, Léopold Zborowski. It then changed hands six times before ending up with the anonymous seller.
Nogarin regretted the sale as a significant loss for Italy, while hinting at a possible mismanagement of funds in the country, referring to the planned lease of a new airplane to be used by the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “I would have preferred one more Modigliani and one less aeroplane,” he snapped.
“Livorno has a strange relationship with Modigliani,” Nogarin added. “It’s a visceral love and then also a sense of guilt because Modigliani left Livorno as a young man. Modigliani is celebrated a lot here… The painting could have become a [local] attraction.”
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