Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 13:38 UK

Freud work sets new world record

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping
Sue Tilley posed for Freud over a four-year period in the early 1990s

A life-sized Lucian Freud painting of a sleeping, naked woman has set a new world record price for a work by a living artist.

The 1995 portrait, titled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold for $33.6m (£17.2m) at Christie's in New York.

The previous record was held by Jeff Koons' Hanging Heart, which fetched $23.5m (£12.1m) last November.

The Freud work, sold at auction for the first time, shows Jobcentre supervisor Sue Tilley, now 51, asleep on a sofa.

Christie's described it as a "bold and imposing example of the stark power of Freud's realism".

Ms Tilley, nicknamed "Big Sue", was introduced to the painter, now 85, by the Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery.

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The record-breaking auction in New York

She posed for Freud for four years in the early 1990s, and told BBC Radio 5 Live it was a strange feeling posing in the nude.

She said: "The first couple of times, I was a bit embarrassed but you get used to it. It's a bit weird to think that a picture of me could be worth so much money.

"You don't have to sit still the whole time. It's two or three days a week and you have breaks."

She added: "When we were painting it we didn't sit there going: 'I bet this'll be the biggest selling painting in the world'. It was just like one of his other pictures."

The previous auction record for a Freud painting was $19.3m (£9.9m), paid in November for his 1992 work IB and Her Husband.


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