On Tuesday, a tryptic by artist Francis Bacon of his partner and confidant John Edwards sold for $80.8 million (£47.9 million).
While the auction was also important for sales of works by Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Alexander Calder – and for reaffirming the economic strength of a resurgent modern and contemporary art market – the prices did not match that achieved for another of Bacon’s tryptics. ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’, Bacon’s portrait of his friend and artistic rival, sold at Christie’s on 12 November 2013 for $142.4 million (£84.5 million).
The most recent sale to a ‘private Asian buyer’ involves a portrait of John Edwards, the East End bar owner who had inherited the vast majority of Bacon’s paintings with the artist at his death in 1992. In an important case before the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence, France, in 2010, the Trustees of the John Edwards Estate had successfully fought for the return of one of Bacon’s paintings, Homage to Van Gogh that had been kept on loan with the Vincent Van Gogh Association in Arles, France. The work had been painted by Bacon in the 1980s to commemorate the centenary of Van Gogh’s time in Arles.