Naked painting hits record sales
A PAINTING of a naked jobcentre supervisor has sold for a record £17.2million.
It is the largest ever amount paid for a piece of work by an artist who is still alive.
The life-size painting called Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, by German artist Lucian Freud hit the world auction record when it sold at Christie’s today.
The masterpiece was sold by a private European collector in a sale at New York’s Rockefeller Centre.
The previous world auction record for a work by a living artist was by Jeff Koons’ Hanging Heart, which fetched $23.5m (£11.3m) last year.
The 1995 Freud painting is of London benefits supervisor Sue Tilley, now 51, sleeping on a dilapidated sofa.
Ms Tilley, now a Jobcentre manager, said: “I’m thrilled. I still can’t believe such a bizarre thing has happened to me. It hasn’t sunk in properly.”
It was the first time Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, which was the highlight of Christie’s New York Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, had appeared at auction.
The 85-year-old British artist first painted “Big Sue” in Evening In The Studio (1993), for which Ms Tilley had to lie in an uncomfortable pose on a bare floor.
Freud then bought the ragged sofa depicted in the 1995 painting for Ms Tilley – who was introduced to Freud by Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery – to lie on.
Ms Tilley, who posed for Freud for four years in the early 1990s, has said in the past of being his muse: “I think he probably picked me because he got value for money. He got a lot of flesh.”
A Christie’s spokesman said: “This picture is a simple and seemingly uncomposed depiction of one of the key features of Freud’s art – the forceful and undeniable physical presence of people and things.”
Before last night’s sale in New York, the auction record for a Freud painting was $19.3m (£9.3m) set in November 2007 for IB And Her Husband (1992).
The masterpiece, titled Big Sue, by British artist Lucian Freud, 85, is tipped to fetch £18million at the sale in New York.
London benefits supervisor Sue Tilley, now 51, who posed for the picture in 1995, said: “I think he picked me because he got value for money. He got a lot of flesh!”
While Sue might not be a typical oil painting, the picture will be the most expensive piece of work by a living artist.
It is on view at Christie’s in London from today.