NIS 30 million Modigliani to be auctioned in Jerusalem

NIS 30 million Modigliani to be auctioned in Jerusalem

‘Portrait de Anne Bjarne’ will become most expensive piece of art sold in Israel; for tax purposes, actual work will remain in New York

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

'Portrait de Anne Bjarne' by Amadeo Modigliani (photo credit: Wikipaintings/ public domain)
'Portrait de Anne Bjarne' by Amadeo Modigliani (photo credit: Wikipaintings/ public domain)

The most expensive piece of art ever to be sold in Israel will be auctioned off at an event in Jerusalem on July 2.

Portrait de Anne Bjarne (1919, oil on canvas, 65×100 cm), by Italian Jewish artist Amedeo Modigliani, will be up for public auction at a show by Matsart Auctioneers and Appraisers. The expressionist painting is estimated to be worth NIS 30 million.

Surprisingly, the painting itself will not actually be in Israel. In order to avoid the 18% value added tax that would have been levied had the works been brought into the country, around NIS 5 million in this case, Matsart decided to keep the painting in New York. They will rely on photographs of the originals at the show, set to be held at the King David Hotel. Other works, however, will be on display.

The Modigliani is part of the private collection of Israeli businessman Meshulam Riklis. Some of the proceeds of the sale will go to the Israel Dignity Fund, headed by Riklis’s wife Tali, for helping wounded IDF soldiers recover through art therapy.

The show features a number of other prominent Jewish and Israeli artists, including  Marc Chagall, Emmanuel Mane-Katz, Reuven Reuben, and Theo Tobiasse. Works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol will also be up for auction.

Matsart CEO Uri Rosenbach said that the Israeli community is ready for an offering such as this, but lamented barriers that hold Israel back. ” In Europe, for example, most countries have a reduced VAT rate on paintings to encourage the market,” he said. Israel does not. “A difference of 11% on $1,000,000 is a lot of money.”

Modigliani, who died in 1920 at the age of 35, grew up in Italy. His mother descended from Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza. After studying in Italy, the sickly Modigliani moved to Paris, where he soon developed a reputation as a drunkard and drug-using Bohemian. He may have used his well-known substance abuse to hide the tuberculosis to which he ultimately succumbed.

Simultaneous shows will also be held in Paris and New York.

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