Francis Bacon Triptych Sells For $51.7 Million, Highest Post-War Work Sold In Europe


Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Triptych 1974-77, signed, titled and dated ‘Triptych May-June 1974 Francis Bacon’, (on the reverse of each canvas), oil, pastel and letraset on canvas, in three parts. Each 78 x 58 ⅛in. (198 x 147.5cm.). Executed in 1974, the central panel was reworked in 1977. © Christie's Images Ltd. 2008.

LONDON.- Triptych 1974-77 by Francis Bacon (1909-1992) sold for £26.3 million ($51.7 million/€35.2 million), becoming the most expensive work of art ever sold at Christie’s in London and the most valuable Post-War and Contemporary work sold in Europe.

Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale realised a total of £72,930,500 ($143,089,641/€97,581,009). The sale was 88% sold by value and 69% sold by lot. 23 lots sold for over $1 million and 12 lots selling for over £1 million with four artist records established. The buyer breakdown was (by lot): 57% European including UK; 43% Americas.

“Christie’s established the highest price for any Post-War and Contemporary work of art sold in Europe this evening, with the superb result for the Triptych 1974-77 by Francis Bacon,” said Pilar Ordovas, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s London. “Throughout the sale, we saw active participation from American clients who bid competitively alongside other international collectors. Christie’s again established very strong prices for works of art of the highest quality, resulting in the second highest total for Post-War and Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s London demonstrating the underlying, continued strength of the market.”

Appearing at auction for the first time and offered from a private collection, Triptych 1974-77, is the last in the great series that Bacon painted in response to the tragic death of his lover George Dyer in 1971. Many of Bacon’s works after that date - marking what David Sylvester maintained was the absolute ‘peak period’ of Bacon’s entire career - were preoccupied with Dyer. Painted between May and June of 1974 and revisited in 1977, this great, strangely open, Baconian landscape was immediately recognised as a major landmark in his oeuvre.

Further highlights at Christie’s sale this evening included Zwei Liebespaare, 1966 by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) that sold for £7,300,500 ($14,323,581/€9,768,069), establishing a new world record price for the artist. Painted at the height of his involvement with Pop, the work was acquired from the artist by the mother of the present owner. It has been on long-term loan to the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich.

A monumental Concetto spaziale, Attesa by Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), 1965, sold for £6,740,500 ($13,224,861/€9,018,789), a world record for the artist at auction (estimate: £3,500,000-5,500,000). An inconic piece dedicated to the artist’s wife, the smooth, red surface is interrupted by one single, long straight slash over a metre long.

Palm Springs Jump, 1982 by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), an electrifying work made in a surge of creativity when he had just broken through to star status, was a further highlight selling for £6,516,500 ($12,785,373/€8,719,077).

Further world auction records were established for British artist, Bridget Riley, whose Static 2 obtained £1,476,500 ($2,896,893/€1,975,557), bought by an anonymous collector.
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