Famed for his haunting, existentialist style, Irish-born British artist Francis Bacon was known for his captivating works, which often featured imagery such as screaming faces, crucifixions and twisted figures. On May 13, a visually-arresting triptych will go under the hammer for an estimated US$60 million (S$87 million) at a Sotheby’s Contemporary Art sale in New York City.
The three-panel work, titled “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus”, is one of 28 large-format triptychs that the Irish-born painter created between 1962 and 1991– six of which appeared at auction in recent years. Among them were “Triptych” (1976), “Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards” (1984) and “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” (1969), which achieved Bacon’s highest prices at auction.
The latter momentarily became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, when it fetched a staggering US$142.4 million (S$206.3 million) after 10 minutes of heated competition at Christie’s New York in 2013. “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” surpassed his pre-sale estimate of US$85 million (S$123 million) and has since remained Bacon’s all-time auction record.
“Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” could follow the same trend in May during Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening sale, where the three-panel work will likely exceed his S$87 million estimate.
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This just in ‼️ Moments ago in London, we unveiled a landmark of 20th century art. Francis Bacon’s immense ‘Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus’ will highlight our Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York this May. Inspired by Aeschylus’s ancient trilogy of Greek tragedies, the present triptych stands as one of the most ambitious, enigmatic, and important works of Bacon’s oeuvre. The work is the first large-format triptych to be offered at auction since 2014, and will be offered with an estimate in excess of $60 million. #SothebysContemporary. Acquired in 1984 by the Norwegian collector Hans Rasmus Astrup, the triptych has been in the care of Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo since its founding by Mr. Astrup in 1993 as a private museum. Proceeds from the sale will strengthen the Hans Rasmus Astrup Foundation and underlying entities to ensure long-term support of the Museet, and in particular to expand and diversify the Astrup Fearnley Collection housed therein. #francisbacon #contemporaryart
This 1981 triptych finds Bacon revisiting the same classical text that inspired his seminal “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion,” which propelled him onto the world stage in 1962.
“Francis Bacon is the great tragedian of his age. In this ambitious triptych, the painter confronts Aeschylus, the progenitor of tragedy, so that the timeless power of the Ancient Greek genre is brought to bear on the human condition in the 20th century,” said Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art for Sotheby’s Europe.
In a release announcing the auction, Sotheby’s revealed that “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” comes from the private art collection of Norwegian collector Hans Rasmus Astrup.
Following the acquisition in 1984, the three-panel work has been held at Oslo’s Astrup Fearnley Museet, which was founded by the billionaire entrepreneur in 1993 to manage his collection and allow public access to these private holdings.
The auction house also announced that proceeds from the sale of “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” will support the Astrup Fearnley Museet.