A Francis Bacon portrait of his friend and fellow painter Lucian Freud has become the most valuable work of art ever sold at auction — fetching over $142m (€105.5m) in just six minutes of frantic bidding.
The work went for $142,405,000 at the sale in New York.
The three-panelled painting, called Three Studies of Lucian Freud, depicts the German-born British artist sitting on a chair from three different angles and has never been offered for sale before.
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.
The pair, who were friends and rivals, are regarded as two of the modern masters of art.
Bacon, who died in 1992, also sat for a portrait by Freud but it was stolen during an exhibition in Germany and has never been seen since.
Freud died in 2011.
“Three Studies of Lucian Freud, executed in 1969, is a true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship, paying tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists,” Francis Outred of Christie’s Europe said.
“The juxtaposition of radiant sunshine yellow contrasting with the brutal physicality and immediacy of the brushstrokes in this celebrated life-size triptych is what makes Bacon’s art so remarkable.”
The record price is more than double that of Bacon’s second most expensive piece of artwork.
Triptych, 1976, was bought for over €50m in 2008 by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich at an auction by Sotheby’s in New York.
Yesterday’s auction also saw another record set when Jeff Koon’s monumental sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange), went for $58,405,000, a new world auction record for a living artist.
The Bacon and Koons pieces were the two most prized lots among a stash of 20th century masterpieces that flew under the hammer in a flourishing market of post-war and contemporary art.
With impressionist and modern art harder to come by and many of the great works in museums, it is contemporary work that has seen such a dramatic rise in prices.
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