Bacon vs Bacon: £50m sale puts artist firmly among the greats

Two Francis Bacon paintings will go under the hammer next month, with rival auction houses each hoping that they set a new record price for the artist. Already, insiders suggest one of the works could top the highest amount paid at auction for a post-war piece.

Both paintings are valued at around £25m. Early next month Christie's will auction Triptych 1974-77, the last in the series Bacon created after the suicide of his lover, George Dyer. The auction house has not published its guide price, saying only it is "in the region" of £25m.

Rumours in the art world, however, put the top end price at £35m. If that is achieved, Bacon will challenge Rothko as the most expensive post-war artist, and the £26.5m Bacon record set last May by Study for Innocent X will be shattered. Weeks later Sotheby's will auction Study of a Nude with Figure in a Mirror, for up to £25m.

The sales will catapult the British artist, who died in 1992 aged 82, into the pantheon of 20th-century Titans, alongside Warhol, Rothko and Picasso. It will also cap a remarkable year during which nine of his works will have sold for a total of £180m and his record price has risen from £5m in 2006 to a possible £35m.

Interest in the artist will peak again this October when the Tate puts on a retrospective in anticipation of Bacon's centenary next year and the publication of a new biography by Bacon's friend, Michael Peppiatt.

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