Bacon’s smashing new record

Three Studies of Lucian Freud, by Francis Bacon (1969)

The announcement that a painting by the Irish painter Francis Bacon was going to be sold in auction at the well known gallery Christie’s, with an estimated price of $85 million , shook up the art world for a week, acording to Kelly Crow,an expert in auction working as a reporter for the Wall Street Jorunal (Kelly Crow, The Wall Street Journal, Nov 7, 2013). At the same time, it was also announced that the painting was very likely to break the previous record price in history of auctions, and set a new one. Indeed, the art work, a 1969 triptych of portraits of the painter and Bacon’s friend Lucian Freud, set an astonishing $142.4m record.

“Its price easily exceeded the $120 million paid for Edvard Munch’s The Scream at a sale in 2012,which was previously the highest ever paid for art at auction”(Jown Swaine, The Telegraph, 13 Nov, 2013) assures John Swaine. Until now, $86.3m was the highest price ever paid for one of Bacon’s works, “paid by the Russian businessman Roman Abramovich in 2008, for a 1976 triptych” (Tim Walker, The Independent, 13 Nov, 2013).

The question now, however, is how could a painting have reached such an unbelievable price. Refering to this issue, Manuel Borja-Villel, director of  Spain’s national 20th century art museum,  the Reina Sofia Museum, claims that the auction results in New York have also set a new canon: only what is between surrealism and pop is now interesting (Ángeles Gracia, El País, 13 Nov, 2013). In the same artile, and following a more critical line, the German art gallerist Helga de Alvear argues that the results of the auction have nothing to do with the quality of the painting but with the aspiration of many welthy men, willing to fill their museums with famous artists’ names.

Nevertheless, admirers of Bacon’s work insist on the painting’s incredible quality as the explanation for its price, and which was paid by the Qatari royal princess (Judith Benhamou, Les Echos,19 Nov, 2013). ”If any artist is worth a lot of money it is Francis Bacon” declares Jonathan Jones for The Guardian while he looks to another Bacon painting in Tate Britain, ”Yet every single thing here wilts in the baleful glare of Bacon’s Triptych – August 1972, a painting with the darkness of Caravaggio, the curves of Bernini, and the brutal passion of a criminal Titian“. With the same admiration tone, Manuela Mena, curator at El Prado Museum in Madrid, qualifies the object Three Studies of Lucian Freud as a master and coveted piece, painted during the author’s more observant period, when he was still in permanent research.

In the same auction other two art works were sold: the first one, an Andy Warhol’s work called Silver Car Crash, sold at $120, seting a new record fro the american author; the second one, a sculpture by Jeff Koons called Balloon Dog (Orange), which was sol at $58,4 (John Henley, The Guardian, 13 Nov, 2013). Still, these exorbitant prices are the reliable proof that for a few people in the world, the economic crisi and the precarious conditions people are experimenting do not seem to have any effect on them.

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