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Monday 18 December 2017

Auction took just six minutes to achieve €106m record

Bidding gets under way for the 1969 painting by Francis Bacon, 'Three Studies of Lucian Freud', at Christie's in New York. AP/Christie's
Bidding gets under way for the 1969 painting by Francis Bacon, 'Three Studies of Lucian Freud', at Christie's in New York. AP/Christie's
Francis Bacon: The Irish-born artist in his studio

Sophie Gorman Arts Editor

THE bidding war at Christie's art auction in New York took just six minutes. It left Francis Bacon's three-panelled painting 'Three Studies of Lucian Freud' the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, bought for $142.4m (€105.9m).

The 1969 triptych, never before offered at auction, carried a pre-sale estimate of $85m (€63m) and bidding started at $80m.

The work was sold over the phone to Acquavella Galleries in Manhattan, which is believed to have bought it on behalf of an undisclosed buyer.

The work by the Irish-born artist easily eclipsed the $119.9m (€89m) price of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream', achieved at Sotheby's in May 2012.

The vast three-piece 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".

The painting's three separate panels were split up shortly after it was completed in 1969 and only brought back together as one work in the 1980s.

Bacon, who died in Madrid in 1992, was born at 63 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin in 1909.

He left home at 16 following a disagreement with his father. After a stay in London, he moved to Berlin in the late 1920s. However, it was in Paris that Bacon saw an exhibition by Picasso that inspired him to become an artist.

He returned to London and dabbled in furniture design before achieving recognition in the late 1940s for his painting.

A bon vivant and openly gay, he became a key figure in the Soho set of eccentric characters. His powerfully recognisable style features brutally twisted figures against a nondescript flat background.

Most of his best-known paintings were created in the London studio that he moved into in 1961. That studio, and its entire contents of more than 7,000 pieces, were donated and relocated to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane in 1998.

And The Hugh Lane is opening an exhibition relating to Freud today.


"We have Francis Bacon's extensive archive and that includes photographs of Lucian Freud seated on a bed taken by John Deakin which bear direct relationship with this triptych," says gallery director Barbara Dawson.

"Bacon used photographs in the way that other artists use sketches, so these photographs are essentially his preliminary sketches."

Irish Independent

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