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Francis Bacon Painting Sells at Auction for Record High Price

Francis Bacon Painting Sells at Auction for Record High Price

A painting by Dublin-born, English artist Francis Bacon of his good friend Lucian Freud has obliterated the world record for the amount a piece of art has fetched at auction after it sold for nearly $60 million more than it was estimated at.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold earlier last month at an auction house called Christie’s, at its postwar and contemporary auction in New York. The record-breaking sale price of over $142 million (£89 million) smashed the previous record of $119.9 million set by Edvard Munch’s The Scream in 2012 and is more than double the price of Bacon’s next expensive piece of artwork.

Seven potential buyers from around the world engaged in a 6-minute long bidding war, with New York art dealer William Acquavella, working on behalf of an unnamed client, emerging the victor. Acquavella’s gallery in Manhattan often exhibits Lucian Freud’s work, and was his New York art dealer until he died in 2011.

Francis Outred, International Director and Head of the Postwar and Contemporary Art for Christie’s Europe, said that Three Studies of Lucian Freud speaks volumes about the depth of friendship between Bacon and Freud, “paying tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists”.

The art, which was painted in 1969, is a set of three panels, known as a triptych. It is also one of only two existing life-size triptychs of Lucian Freud, but the other has been missing for years. The painting portrays Sigmund Freud’s grandson sat in a chair, with a view from the front and one from each side.

The panels were separated from each other in the 1970s, when three different collectors Japan, Paris and Rome bought them. The collector from Rome, Francesco De Simone Niquesa, bought the other two panels, reuniting the triptych. In recent years, he sold the painting to a collector in the US, who was the person behind the latest sale.

Francis Bacon is known to have spent about 30 years focusing on painting large triptychs, like the ones of Lucian Freud. He started in the mid-1940s on a much smaller scale, building up to life-size paintings in 1962.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud was not the only record breaker at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art sale. Balloon Dog (Orange), a 12-foot tall stainless steel sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons, sold for $58.4 million (£36.6 million), the most ever attained by a living artist. The previous record was set by a painting by German painter Gerhard Richter earlier this year.

Overall, Christie’s managed to set 10 new sale world records, including selling: three works for over $50 million, 11 for over $20 million, 16 for over $10 million, and 56 for over $1 million. Christie’s attributes the success to art collectors choosing to bulk out their art collections now that the economy is recovering from the gloom of recent years.

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