Published: February 12, 2008
“Triptych 1974‷7” by Francis Bacon (1909‱992) sold for $51.7 million on February 6, becoming the most expensive work of art ever sold at Christie’s in London and the most valuable postwar and contemporary work sold in Europe, according to the auction house.
Appearing at auction for the first time and offered from a private collection, “Triptych 1974‷7,” is the last in the great series that Bacon painted in response to the death of his lover, George Dyer, in 1971. Many of Bacon’s works after that date †marking what British art critic and curator David Sylvester maintained was the absolute “peak period” of Bacon’s entire career †were preoccupied with Dyer. Painted between May and June of 1974 and revisited in 1977, this great, strangely open, Baconian landscape was immediately recognized as a major landmark in his oeuvre.
With its sequential images of dark ominous umbrellas and his lover George Dyer writhing and struggling on a near-deserted beach overlooked by the specter of two terrifying monochrome Orwellian witnesses, the subject matter and the open-air landscape setting of this work appeared to mark the work as both a conclusion and a new departure in Bacon’s art.
Overall, the evening postwar and contemporary art sale realized a total of $143,089,641, and set four new artist records, including new record prices for Gerhard Richter, Lucio Fontana and Bridget Riley. A full report on the sale will appear in a future issue.
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