Bacon Work Sells for Record $86.2m

Francis BaconNEW YORK ~ A three-panel work by Francis Bacon was sold at auction in New York this week for US$86.2 million, setting a new record for a painting by the Irish artist.

Triptych, painted in 1976, easily beat the previous record for a Bacon sold at Sotheby’s auction house, set by Study for Innocent X, 1962, which sold for $52.6 million a year ago.

The mood was euphoric on Wednesday as several works exceeded their estimates, netting the auction house $362 million during the evening.

This was “the highest total ever for a contemporary art sale at Sotheby’s,” according to its head of contemporary art, Tobias Meyer.

Eighty-three lots were up for auction, a far higher number than normal, with many of them from the extraordinary collection of Helga and Walter Lauffs.

Three Yves Klein paintings went for considerably more than their estimates, while Takashi Murakami’s My Lonesome Cowboy, which had been valued at between $3-4 million, sold for $15.1 million.

Triptych was described by Sotheby’s as the most important work by Bacon in private hands, having been in the same collection since it was acquired from a show at the Galerie Claude Bernard in Paris in 1977.

“The world has been waiting for a great Bacon triptych, and this is it,” Meyer said in a statement advertising the sale last month.

The bumper evening came a day after Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, a nude by British artist Lucian Freud, became the most expensive work ever by a living artist after selling at Christie’s for more than $34 million.

It demonstrated for the second consecutive week – after robust impressionist sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s last week – that the faltering US economy has not gutted the international art market.

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