A masterpiece by Italian Jewish artist Amadeo Modigliani, estimated to be worth NIS 30 million, will be offered at public auction in Israel in the coming weeks. It is the most expensive painting ever to be auctioned in Israel. But the painting itself won't be making an appearance.
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Modigliani's painting is one of 91 works to be shown in Israel in photographs and on film. The Israeli Tax Authority is demanding 18 percent value added tax for the entry of each item into Israel. To avoid the tax, the original paintings will stay in New York, making the U.S. Department of the Treasury the beneficiary of the taxes on their sale.
The Modigliani, called "Portrait de Anne Bjarne" (oil on canvas, 65 x 100 cm), was painted in 1919 and comes from the private collection of millionaire Meshulam Riklis. It is one of 415 works offered for international sale by Matsart Auctioneers and Appraisers. Some of the revenues will be donated by the Israel Dignity Fund, headed by Tali Riklis, for art workshops for disabled Israel Defense Forces soldiers at Beit Halohem veterans' rehabilitation centers.
To date, three people have expressed interest in the Modigliani – an Israeli, a Spaniard and a Chinese national. They are expected to fly to New York to examine the painting up close.
The Matsart sale will take place simultaneously in Israel, Paris and New York. On June 23, the auction will be located at the Hatachana complex, in south Tel Aviv, on the site of the old Jaffa railway station. On July 2, it will take place at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
International artists whose works will be on sale at the event include Raoul Dufy, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Utrillo, Robert Indiana and Marc Chagall. Among the Israeli offerings are those from the collection of Tehilla & Yigal Slonim, which includes works by artists Reuven Reuben, Moshe Castel, Nahum Gutman, Yosl Bergner, Moshe Mokadi and others.
The Modigliani was transferred by the Riklises for sale at the Matsart auction house because of the gallery's success in selling masterpieces, such as those by Camille Pissarro and Chaim Soutine, which commanded a record price in Israel.