Francis Bacon’s three-panelled painting Three Studies of Lucian Freud has become the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, soaring to US$142.4M last night at Christie’s.
The 1969 triptych, never before offered at auction, had carried a pre-sale estimate of about $85m. In the end it easily eclipsed the $119.9m price of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, achieved in May 2012 year at Sotheby’s. The previous record for a Bacon work of art was $86.3m set in 2008.
The monumental painting depicts the Dublin-born painter’s friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud on a chair, with a view from each side and one face-on. Christie’s called it “a true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship” and their “creative and emotional kinship”.
With bidding starting at a whopping $80m, it sold after a protracted bidding war both in the packed New York salesroom and via telephone. Christie’s did not disclose the identity of the successful buyer.
Three Studies of Lucian Freud is also one of only two existing full-length triptychs of Freud, a grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and the three panels were separated for 15 years in the 1970s before being reunited, Christie’s said.
On the same night the auction set another significant record, for a price achieved at auction by any living artist, Jeff Koons
At a recent preview Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art, Brett Gorvy, noted that collectors from Asia, Russia and the Middle East flush with cash were determined to assemble world-class collections featuring trophy works.