A triptych of portraits by the openly gay artist Francis Bacon has become the most expensive artwork ever sold at an auction, totalling £89.6 million.
The 1969 piece ‘Three Studies of Lucien Freud’ sold in just six minutes at Christie’s auction house in New York, purchased by art dealer William Acquavella on behalf of an unnamed client.
The figurative portraits depict Bacon’s friend and artist rival Lucien Freud seated on a wooden chair against an orange background.
The piece was among the favourite of Bacon’s works.
Christie’s Francis Outred described the triptych as “a true masterpiece” and “an undeniable icon of 20th Century art” which “marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship, paying tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists.”
The highest price for one of Bacon’s works before now was £53.7 million, paid by the Russian businessman Roman Abramovich in 2008, for a 1976 triptych.
Bacon, who was openly gay, has been described as someone who “lived well.” He spent a majority of his early career as an artist supported by a series of older patrons who were also his lovers.
Section 28 Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once described him as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”
In 1969 he became acquainted with George Dyer, who was the artist’s lover and principal portrait model until his suicide in 1972.
Bacon died of a heart attack in 1992.