A painting by Francis Bacon became the most expensive work of art ever sold when it fetched $142.4 million (€106m).
The work, of Bacon’s friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud, made up one of the biggest auctions in history, which saw more than $691 million (€514.5m) worth of art sold at Christie’s in New York.
Bacon’s painting easily eclipsed the $119.9 million (€89.2m) price of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’.
The three-panel work depicts 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” and their “creative and emotional kinship.”
“Three Studies of Lucian Freud” is also one of only two existing full-length triptychs of Freud, a grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. The three panels were separated for 15 years in the 1970s before being reunited.
When the bidding started on Tuesday at $80 million (€59.5m), at least five hands shot up before a protracted bidding war in the packed New York salesroom and via telephone brought the hammer price to $127 million (€94.5m), before commission.
The successful bidder was the Acquavella Gallery, which could have been bidding on behalf of a client.
Christie’s officials said the auction, and the jaw-dropping prices many works commanded, were evidence of the art market’s strength, especially at its top echelons.
“Our top collectors bid very, very aggressively for the best of the best,” said Brett Gorvy, Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art. “I really believe we are beginning something. This is not a bubble.”