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Fort Worth's Matisses Sold

by Jerome Weeks 3 Nov 2011 10:16 AM

Nu de Dos or Backs I-IV had been put up for sale by Fort Worth’s Burnett Foundation in January but had failed to fetch the asking price. So Sotheby’s was set to auction them — when they pulled the Backs off their gallery wall.


Apparently, art lovers had been going to Sotheby’s 10th-floor gallery in New York to gander at Henri Matisse’s famous quartet of bronze sculptures of a woman’s back, which Fort Worth’s Burnett Foundation has been trying to sell privately since January. The foursome, Nu de Dos, was created over a 23-year period starting in 1908, and although considered a landmark of modernist art, it had failed to fetch the Burnett’s asking price, reportedly in the neighborhood of $200 million.

But according to the NYTimes, the backs were pulled from Sotheby’s wall Wednesday before they were to be auctioned — because they’d finally been sold for around $120 million.  Who ponied up that amount in our recessionary, 99 percent times?

Among the contenders: Leon Black, chief executive of Apollo Asset Management, who is said to have bought another edition of the fourth sculpture in the series for $48.8 million when it was for sale at Christie’s a year ago. Another name being mentioned is Steven A. Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire, who dealers say tried to buy the sculpture at Christie’s last year but was outbid by Mr. Black.