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November 12, 2015

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

US$170m Modigliani will go on display in city, but not until 2017

TAXI driver turned financier, Chinese tycoon Liu Yiqian has stunned the art world with his record-setting purchases, the latest an Amedeo Modigliani nude costing more than US$170 million.

“Nu Couche,” or “Reclining Nude,” painted by the Italian artist in 1917-18, sold to Liu after a frantic nine-minute bidding war at a Christie’s auction in New York on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Liu said yesterday that the Modigliani will be displayed at his Long Museum in the Pudong New Area in 2017 to mark its fifth anniversary.

Largely unknown outside China and rarefied art circles, 51-year-old Liu has made a string of purchases for his two museums in Shanghai.

With personal wealth of almost US$1.4 billion according to Forbes magazine, Liu is among the ranks of the new Chinese super-rich.

He made his first fortune speculating in Shanghai’s newly established stock market in the 1990s, but now runs a huge conglomerate active in several industries.

In one of his most high-profile acquisitions, Liu last year set a record for Chinese porcelain by paying US$36 million for a tiny Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) cup with a rooster and a hen tending to their chicks.

He later posted photos of himself drinking tea out of the vessel, known as a “chicken cup” for its painted motif, sparking an uproar on social media.

In April, Liu paid US$14.7 million for an 800-year-old Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) vase tinted a milky blue, and in March snapped up a 600-year-old album of Ming Dynasty Buddhist art and calligraphy for US$14 million.

He has sought to justify some of his purchases as patriotism, claiming he is returning objects to China that were taken or looted from the country.

“Like the Gettys and the Guggenheims and the Whitneys ... there’s a long history of museums in the West, and maybe now in China of collectors wanting to make a name for themselves and make a mark on history,” Clare Jacobson, author of “New Museums in China,” told AFP last year.

Last year, Liu paid a record US$45 million for a Tibetan tapestry from the 15th century and later said it was part of his bid to bring historic artworks back to China.

His US$8.2 million purchase of a scroll of nine Chinese characters supposedly dating to the Song Dynasty of 960-1279 was derided as a fake by a group of experts.

Liu has largely shunned the media spotlight following a New York Times series on China’s art market that called him a “new collector.”

Long Museum spokeswoman Hu Xiaofei dismissed worries that the sensuous Modigliani nude might run afoul of Chinese authorities, who have previously shut down exhibits deemed “pornographic.”

“It’s art and the duty of the museum is to share cutting-edge artwork,” she said.

Critics have said Liu’s taste tends to be eclectic with his collection ranging from ancient to modern times, and spanning both Chinese and foreign artists.

“Our shows are all very fresh and at the vanguard,” Hu said.


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