NEW YORK: Hype over Francis Bacon, whose work fetched a record price last year, is set to hit fever pitch when a new triptych goes under the hammer next week.
Traditional auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s get into gear Tuesday and Thursday with modern and impressionist art expected to fetch a total of $1.9 billion, followed by ever-more popular postwar contemporary the following week.
Christie’s is forecasting total spring season sales of $979 million, while Sotheby’s is forecasting $934.15 million – solid numbers that underscore the current strength of the fine art market today.
With a greater number of buyers interested in works from the post-1945 era, attention again is turning to Bacon, whose “Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards” (1984) will go on the block at Christie’s May 13 for an estimated $75 million.
It is a portrait of Bacon’s close friend and confidant from the mid-1970s until the artist’s death in 1992. Edwards, who died in 2003, was the sole heir to Bacon’s paintings and properties.
Another Bacon triptych “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” sold for $142.4 million in New York last year, smashing the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever auctioned. That outdid the previous high of $119.9 million for Edvard Munch’s well-known “The Scream” set in May 2012.
The current Bacon-mania had yet another jaw-dropping day in London last February, when his “Portrait of George Dyer Talking” sold for a dizzying $70 million.
The triptych was considered among his finest works, by Bacon himself.
“This particular work portraits Bacon’s most-celebrated subject and really closest and most significant relationship with John Edwards,” said Christie’s postwar and contemporary specialist Sara Friedlander. “We are anticipating wonderful results for this work.”
At its postwar and contemporary event, Christie’s will have three U.S. artists’ works on offer – Andy Warhol’s “Race Riot,” “Untitled” by Mark Rothko and “Black fire” by Barnett Newman – each expected to fetch about $50 million.
Warhol’s monumental “Silver Car Crash” (Double Disaster)” was sold in November for more than $105 million, so his proverbial 15 minutes of (extreme) fame apparently are not over yet.
On the heels of the Christie’s sale, Sotheby’s has some affection for Warhol as well. It expects to sell his “Six Self Portraits” for an estimated $25 million-35$ million.
Also coming up on the Sotheby’s May 14 postwar and contemporary block are the sculpture “Popeye” by Jeff Koons, at about $25 million, and the oil painting “Blau” by Gerhard Richter. It too is expected to fetch $25 million-$35 million.
The New York spring auctions start off on a strong note Tuesday with the sale of Frenchman Claude Monet’s oils “Nympheas” and Pablo Picasso’s “Portrait de femme (Dora Maar)” – both expected to earn around $35 million.
Also expected to fetch top dollar are Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky’s “Strandszene” ($16 million-$22 million) and the bronze “Femme de Venise IV” by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti ($10 million-$18 million).