Bacon painting sells for $44.8m at auction


A MALE nude painting by Dublin-born artist Francis Bacon has sold for $44.8 million (€34.5 million) at a Sotheby’s art auction in New York.

Described as a “powerful and sophisticated” painting, Figure Writing Reflected in Mirror exceeded its estimate of $30 million to $40 million at the auction on Wednesday night. Five bidders competed to buy the painting. The successful buyer was listed as “anonymous”. The 1976 oil painting was sold by an unnamed European collector.

A second, smaller painting by Bacon, Study for a Portrait, sold later in the evening for $4.2 million. The New York Times reported that it had been bought by Donald L Bryant, an American art collector who told the paper he was “happy to get it at that price”.

Bidders spent more than $266 million at the auction. Roy Lichtenstein’s Sleeping Girl, painted in 1964, shared the top spot with Bacon, also selling for $44.8 million – a new record for the artist at auction. Sotheby’s said Sleeping Girl was “one of the high-points of the Lichtenstein’s comic book-inspired paintings and an icon of postwar American art”.

A painting of Elvis Presley titled Double Elvis by Andy Warhol made $37 million. Speaking afterwards, Tobias Meyer, worldwide head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, said the company was thrilled by the results and that “the top end of the market performed beautifully . . . due to a global demand for masterpieces that is almost unparalleled”.

The record price at auction for one of Bacon’s paintings was achieved at Sotheby’s, also in New York, in 2008 when his Triptych, 1976 sold for $86.3 million (€55.6 million). The buyer, reputedly, was Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.

Sotheby’s was also due to auction a selection of Irish art in London last night, including paintings by Sir William Orpen, Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry.