Francis Bacon painting set to sell for $100 million in New York
Dublin-born painter now one of the most expensive artists in history
A woman views Three Studies of Lucian Freud, by Francis Bacon, at Christie’s, in central London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
A painting by Dublin-born artist Francis Bacon may sell for up to $100 million (€72 million) at auction in New York next month and become one of the most expensive works of art ever sold.
Auctioneers Christie’s expects the price for Three Studies of Lucian Freud “to surpass the current record” for the artist, which is $86.3 million.
Some of the world’s wealthiest people are expected to bid when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s sale of post-war and contemporary art in Manhattan on November 12th.
The buyer will effectively get three pictures for the price of one. Like many of Bacon’s most famous paintings, the work is a triptych – a painting on three separate panels designed to be hung together. Each panel is framed separately.
The life-size painting, dating from 1969, depicts Lucian Freud – a friend and fellow-artist of Bacon’s – sitting on a wooden chair in various poses.
Christie’s described it as a “true masterpiece” that marks the friendship between Bacon and Freud, “two masters of 20th-century figurative painting”. The work has never appeared at auction before and is being sold by an unnamed European collector.
Many of Bacon’s paintings are now in museums but those still in private ownership sell for millions at auction. The record price for a painting by Bacon was $86.3 million (€55.6 million) paid in 2008 at Sotheby’s, New York for Triptych, 1976 which was reputedly bought by Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea Football Club.
But Christie’s believes “the market has moved on” since then and that Three Studies of Lucian Freud could “comfortably beat this record and possibly get closer to $100 million”.
Other collectors of Bacon’s paintings, according to the Art Newspaper, include the American hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen; Sheikha Al Mayassa, daughter of the Emir of Qatar; and an unnamed “Irish billionaire” believed to have bought one at auction in London in 2008 for £17 million.
Bacon, who was born in Lower Baggot Street in 1909 and grew up in Co Kildare, moved to England as a young man and became one of London’s most famous artists during the 1960s. He died in 1992 and his South Kensington studio was later donated to Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery, where it has been reconstructed.
Lucian Freud, who died in 2011, was a German-born British artist and a grandson of the Viennese psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
The highest price ever paid at auction for a painting was $119.9 million (€90.6 million) for one of four versions of The Scream by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch at Sotheby’s, New York, in May last year.