NEW YORK.-The most important work by Lucian Freud (b. 1922) to appear at auction is among the leading highlights of Christies New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 13 May 2008. The life-size Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995, depicts a naked Sue Tilley, a benefits supervisor from London, and is estimated between $25 million and $35 million. Appearing at auction for the first time, the work is offered from a private European collection and its estimate reflects that it may establish a new world auction record for any work by a living artist sold at auction. The masterpiece will be on public view for the first time in London at a special exhibition on 11, 14 and 15 April 2008 at Christies King Street.
As the global market leader for Post-War and Contemporary art and works by Lucian Freud, Christies is honoured to have been entrusted with this masterpiece. Appearing at auction for the first time, this work has been featured in a number of the major Freud exhibitions and is expected to set a new world auction record for a work by any living artist when it is offered at Christies New York in May 2008, said Pilar Ordovás, Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Christies London.
Benefits Supervisor Sleeping is one of the finest of Freuds paintings from the 1990s. The work depicts a vast naked woman, Sue Tilley, lying asleep on a worn out sofa and is a bold and imposing example of the stark power of Lucian Freuds realism. This picture is a simple and seemingly uncomposed depiction of one of the key features of Freuds art - the forceful and undeniable physical presence of people and things.
Sue Tilley was introduced to Freud by the Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery - himself the subject of several monumental and yet also tender portraits that Freud made in the early 1990s. Bowery, who recommended several sitters to Freud, attempted to find models for the artist whose physicality would appeal to him. Freud had greatly welcomed the new possibilities that the bulk of Bowerys own imposing figure had offered him and it was this that had prompted Bowery to think of his friend, Big Sue.
Tilley, who is now the author of Bowerys biography, was nervous on first meeting Freud but like most of his sitters grew more comfortable and confident as she came to know him. After Freuds first picture of her, Evening in the Studio of 1993, which was originally to have also included Bowery and for which she was forced to lie on the bare floor in an extremely uncomfortable pose, Freud bought the dilapidated sofa that appears in this painting for her to lie on.