Bacon’s Lover Triptych Fetches $17.3 Million in London

A Francis Bacon triptych last night fetched $17.3 million at an auction that also featured photos of stock exchanges owned by a former hedge fund manager.

The Bacon work, with an unidentified seller, had been estimated by Sotheby’s in London at 10 million pounds ($15.3 million) to 15 million pounds. Separately, Greg Coffey, the ex-co-chief investment officer of Moore Capital Management LLC’s European business, was the seller of five Andreas Gursky photographs, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

“Considering how long a season it’s been, I was amazed by how strong some of the prices were,” said the Connecticut-based dealer and collector David Rogath, who had flown in from the Venice Biennale. “This is a game for people with money, and they know what they are doing. Only the best things do well.”

Bacon’s “Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne,” showing the artist’s favorite female model in 1966, was not subject to any guarantees -- so maximizing the auction house’s return. It was bought for 11.3 million pounds by Alex Corcoran of the Lefevre Gallery of London. It last sold for 2.4 million pounds at Christie’s International in 2004.

Rawsthorne was an artist and a former lover of Alberto Giacometti, before becoming a muse to Bacon during the 1960s. Sotheby’s work was one five triptych studies that the Irish-born painter made of her between 1965 and 1968.

Australian-born Coffey entered limited-edition C-prints of the bourses at Chicago, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Kuwait, ranging in date from 1990 to 2009. They had previously been unsuccessfully offered privately as a single group to galleries, said dealers.

Gurksy Record

The photos raised 5.5 million pounds, having been estimated at as much as 3.4 million pounds. All were bought by telephone bidders. The most expensive was the 1999-2009 “Chicago Board of Trade III,” which sold for 2.2 million pounds, an auction record for a Gursky exchange photo.

Coffey told clients in October 2012 that he was leaving the hedge fund industry to spend more time with his family, having lost money for investors in the past two years. Calls to Coffey’s former hedge fund and publicist were not returned.

Sotheby’s sale raised 75.8 million pounds with fees against an estimate of 66.1 million pounds to 94.6 million pounds, based on hammer prices. Buyers were found for 78 percent of the 68 lots, as had been the case the previous night at Christie’s, which took 70.1 million pounds.

In recent years, such evening contemporary auctions have routinely sold more than 80 percent. Dealers blamed fatigue induced by $1.1 billion auctions in New York, the Venice Biennale and Art Basel fairs in Hong Kong and Switzerland.

Lucio Fontana’s “Concetto Spaziale, Le Chiese di Venezia” was sold to a phone bidder for 4.45 million pounds, just above the low estimate. Bacon’s 1949 “Head III” doubled its lower estimate and sold for 10.4 million pounds to a telephone buyer.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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