Bacon triptych sells for record $142.4 million
NEW YORK - Reuters
Francis Bacon’s ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud - 1969’ is seen at the opening of the exhibition ‘Caravaggio and Bacon’ at the Borghese museum in Rome. AFP photoFrancis Bacon’s painting “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” became the most expensive work of art ever sold when it fetched on Nov. 12 $142.4 million in one of the biggest auctions in history at which Christie’s sold more than $691 million worth of art.
Bacon’s 1969 triptych, never before offered at auction and which carried a pre-sale estimate of about $85 million, easily eclipsed the $119.9 million price of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” achieved in May last year at Sotheby’s.
The auction of 69 works of post-war and contemporary art also took in $691,583,000, including commission, far above the estimated $480 million to $670 million, making it the most expensive auction in history and eclipsing Christie’s sale of contemporary art in May which totaled $495 million.
The sale set yet another significant record, for a price achieved at auction by any living artist, when Jeff Koons’ large sculpture, “Balloon Dog (Orange),” fetched $58.4 million. The price beat the high pre-sale estimate and smashed the old record for a living artist of $37.1 million set by Gerhard Richter’s “Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan)” in May.
Bacon’s three-panel work depicts the Dublin-born painter’s friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud on a chair, with a view from each side and one face-on. Christie’s called it “a true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship” and their “creative and emotional kinship.”
One of two full-length triptychs
“Three Studies of Lucian Freud” is also one of only two existing full-length triptychs of Freud, a grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. The three panels were separated for 15 years in the 1970s before being reunited. The previous record for a Bacon work was $86.3 million.
When the bidding started at $80 million, at least five hands shot up before a protracted bidding war in the packed New York salesroom and via telephone brought the hammer price to $127 million, before commission. The successful bidder was the Acquavella Gallery, which could have been bidding on behalf of a client.
Christie’s officials said the auction, and the jaw-dropping prices many works commanded, were evidence of the art market’s strength, especially at its top echelons.