A 1966 Francis Bacon portrait estimated at 30 million pounds ($49 million) will be going on sale next month, following a record price paid for a triptych by the artist in November.
“Portrait of George Dyer Talking,” a 6-foot-6-inch-high canvas showing Bacon’s lover sitting in a bare interior lit by one bulb, is offered in Christie’s Feb. 13 sale of postwar and contemporary art in London, the auction house said today in an e-mailed statement that doesn’t identify the seller.
Wealthy individuals are making money in a bullish auction market for trophy art by offering desirable works they’ve acquired, either for a quick flip or to sell longtime holdings high. Once regarded by dealers as difficult to market, Bacon’s violently rendered canvases, distinguished by their bright gold frames, are increasingly coveted by billionaires in the salesroom.
“These sellers understand margins, and the uplift can be colossal,” Alan Hobart, a London-based private dealer, said in a telephone interview. “The auction houses have the buyers at the top end of the market. It’s globalized money. Bacon is now an auction commodity,” said Hobart, who paid 13.7 million euros ($18.7 million) for the Irish-born artist’s 1961 “Seated woman (Portrait of Muriel Belcher)” at Sotheby’s Paris in December 2007.
The portrait to be auctioned next month was included in the artist’s retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971, an exhibition that opened two days after Dyer committed suicide in Bacon’s hotel room. The painting last appeared on the open market in 2000, when it sold for $6.6 million at Christie’s in New York. It is certain to sell in February, courtesy of bidding from a third-party guarantor, Matthew Paton, a spokesman for the London-based auction house, said in a telephone interview.
Works from the last 60 years dominate the art market, generating sales of more than $1 billion each from the last three biannual series of evening and day auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips in New York.
Bacon became the world’s most expensive postwar and contemporary artist when a 1976 triptych inspired by the Greek “Oresteia” trilogy of Aeschylus sold at Sotheby’s New York in May 2008, at the height of the last art-market boom, for $86.3 million. The buyer was Roman Abramovich, the Art Newspaper reported.
Bacon’s 1969 “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” fetched $142.4 million at Christie’s New York in November, a record for any artwork at a public sale.