A 1995 work by Lucian Freud called “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” is expected to sell for $35m at auction in New York next month. That will make it the most expensive painting ever sold by a living artist.
The subject matter is typically Freudian: a large naked woman lounges on a couch. More interesting to me than the money is the model’s story and what she can tell us of the artist and his methods (wouldn’t we love to speak to the models for the Mona Lisa, David, and the Venus de Milo?).
Sue Tilly — “Big Sue” — was paid twenty pounds a day but “she did not do it for the money and had ‘lovely lunches’ with the artist … Ms Tilley – who is now a job centre manager – joked she had now become a broadsheet pin-up.”
“The painting took nine months, but that was about two or three days a week. “When I started I got £20 a day. I don’t mind though. The best thing was I got lovely lunches. I got taken to the River Cafe most weekends. It was worth it for that. It was the experience, it wasn’t the money at all. It was just fantastic. You know, so many people would love to have that experience, to work with such a great artist, and chat to them, find out about them and see what they were doing … Because you see the painting every day, you know moving along and what he’s doing and how he works on it. And also what I used to love was there were other paintings there as well, of other people. He has about four on the go at the same time, so each time you went you’d see how far he’s moved along on the other paintings as well.”
The painting is on show for the first time in London this month before it is shipped to New York for the auction.
Update: The painting sold for $33 million.