Three Studies of Lucian Freud, a 1969 triptych painting by artist Francis Bacon, was sold for a record $142.4 million Tuesday night at Christie’s in Manhattan.
It’s now “the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction,” The Associated Press reports. The previous record: “the nearly $120 million paid for Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which set a world record when it was sold at Sotheby’s in a 2012 sale.”
According to The New York Times: “Seven superrich bidders” spent about 10 frenzied minutes competing for the painting. “William Acquavella, the New York dealer, is thought to have bought the painting on behalf of an unidentified client, from one of Christie’s skyboxes overlooking the auction.”
Bacon, born in Dublin on Oct. 28, 1909, died in 1992 at the age of 82. In 2009, art critic Jerry Saltz asked in New York Magazine if Bacon was “the greatest painter of the 20th Century, or just a fascinating mess?” Saltz’s conclusion: Bacon was “an illustrator of exaggerated, ultimately empty angst.”
But this week in The Guardian, critic Jonathan Jones wrote that:
“If any artist is worth a lot of money it is Francis Bacon. Looking at his paintings in Tate Britain, I am hit in the face by their brilliance. One gallery contains such famous works as David Hockney’s painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy and Anthony Caro’s Early One Morning. Yet every single thing here wilts in the baleful glare of Bacon’s Triptych — August 1972, a painting with the darkness of Caravaggio, the curves of Bernini, and the brutal passion of a criminal Titian.”
The PBS NewsHour this week posted about Bacon’s now record-breaking work:
“One British artist, known for his triptych compositions, paints another British artist, known for his truthful nudes — with all his clothes on. That would be a short description for Francis Bacon’s panels, Three Studies of Lucien Freud.”
PBS also pointed to GalleryIntell’s post about the triptych, which says in part that:
“The three panels, with their flat delineated yellow and taupe background feature the German-born grandson of Sigmund Freud in a variety of contorted positions, semi-confined by Bacon’s signature ‘cages.’ Across the panels Freud’s figure addresses the viewer with an almost contemplative gaze, and the painter appears deep in thought. As in Bacon’s other portraits, Freud’s face and figure remain recognizable throughout the various stages of perspective fracturing. …
“Three Studies of Lucian Freud is a ‘conversation’ between the two pillars of 20th Century figurative art and is one of only two existing full-length triptychs of Lucian Freud.”
Also at Christie’s on Tuesday, a sculpture by artist Jeff Koons — Balloon Dog (Orange) — sold for for $58.4 million. That’s “a world auction record for the artist and a world auction record for a living artist,” the wire service adds. The buyer was not identified. The stainless steel artwork is 10-feet tall.