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Record: This ‘triptych’ of Lucien Freud by Francis Bacon smashed the previous record
A work by the late British painter Francis Bacon set a new world record for the most expensive painting ever auctioned off after being sold for almost £90million(N23b)
His iconic 1969 triptych “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” led to a frenzy of telephone bids after the piece went on sale at Christie’s in New York.
The late 20th Century artist’s sale shattered the old record of £74.8million, which was set by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” sold at Sotheby’s in May 2012.
The auction house have refused to confirm who bought the painting after their bid $142million – £89.2million – was successful.
However according to reports in the U.S. William Acquavella, a New York dealer, is said to have acted for an unidentified client, from one of Christie’s skyboxes overlooking the auction.
The price for the painting, which depicts Freud, Bacon’s friend and rival, perched on a wooden chair, was more than the £53million Christie’s had estimated.
When the bidding finally stopped, after more than 10 minutes, the crowd in the salesroom burst into applause.
Two disappointed bidders could be seen leaving the room.
“I went to $101 million (£64million) but it hardly mattered,” said Larry Gagosian, the Manhattan super-dealer who was trying to buy the painting on behalf of a client.
Another contender was Hong Gyu Shin, the director of New York’s Shin Gallery, who said he was bidding for himself.
“I was expecting it to go for around $87 million (£55million),” Mr. Shin said.
The sale broke the previous record price for the work of a British artist, which was set by the sale of Bacon’s own 1976 Triptych for £54 million in 2008 to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Francis Outred, the head of post-war and contemporary art for Christie’s Europe, had described the piece as a “true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship”.
The pair had been friends and rivals since the mid-1940s. Irish-born Bacon died at 82 in 1992, while Freud died last year aged 88.
“The juxtaposition of radiant sunshine yellow contrasting with the brutal physicality and immediacy of the brushstrokes in this celebrated life-size triptych is what makes Bacon’s art so remarkable,” said Mr Outred.
The oil painting shows Freud sitting on a cane-bottomed wooden chair within a cage, on a curved mottled-brown surface with a solid orange background. Behind each figure is a headboard of a bed, originating in a set of photographs of Freud by John Deakin which Bacon used as a reference.
The painting was part of a record-breaking auction that grossed £434,438,721, the highest total for an auction sale in art market history, according to Christie’s.
The sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art broke 10 auction records with three pieces sold for more than £31 million, 11 for over £12.5 million and 16 for over £6.2 million.
“Those dreadful pictures” – a profile of Francis BaconFormer Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once described Francis Bacon as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”.
However, despite being reviled by many his work was equally acclaimed for his bold, graphic and emotional paintings.
Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909 to parents of English heritage.
Despite his family’s wealth, throughout his teenage years he drifted through life often turning to petty crime to make ends meet.
He began painting in his early 20s although his success was not immediate as he struggled to find a style that suited him.
However, in 1944, after being declared unfit for military service, he gained a reputation for being an observer of the darker aspects of humanity with his seminal piece Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.
A year later he met Lucian Freud who, despite being 13 years younger, formed a friendship with Bacon.
Despite their closeness the pair were also bitter rivals famed for their post-war paintings.
On April 18, 1992, Bacon, who was openly gay, died of cardiac arrest that was a complication of his asthma.
His entire estate worth £11million was left to his close friend John Edwards, an illiterate former barman from the East End of London.
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