Francis Bacon's triptych of Lucian Freud portraits sells for record price at $142m

The 1969 triptych sells for $142.4m (£89.6m) at Christie's in New York, breaking record set by Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'
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A 1969 triptych of portraits by Francis Bacon, of his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud, has become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

According to the New York Times, the piece was purchased by art dealer William Acquavella on behalf of an unnamed client for $142.4m (£89.6m) at Christie’s in New York on Tuesday, following a bidding battle between seven prospective buyers.

“Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” which depicts Freud seated on a wooden chair against an orange background, thus overtakes the previous record set by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” which fetched almost $120m at Sotheby’s last year. The highest price for one of Bacon’s works before now was $86.3m, paid by the Russian businessman Roman Abramovich in 2008, for a 1976 triptych.

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 Several other pieces by celebrated contemporary artists were due for sale in New York this week, with 12 of them predicted beforehand to go for more than $20m: the highest-ever concentration of such major works. On Tuesday evening at Christie’s alone, 10 artists attracted record prices for their works, including Willem de Kooning and Jeff Koons, whose sculpture “Balloon Dog (Orange)” fetched $58.4m, a world record for a single artwork by a living artist.

'Three Studies of Lucian Freud' by Francis Bacon

The previous holder of that title was German artist Gerhard Richter, whose 1994 “Abstract Painting,” from the collection of musician Eric Clapton, was also featured in the auction, fetching almost $20.9m. On Wednesday night at Sotheby’s, Andy Warhol’s arresting 1963 painting, “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster),” is expected to sell for as much as $80m. The current record for a Warhol is $71.7m.

Christie’s did not disclose the name of the seller of the six-foot-high Bacon triptych, which was estimated before the sale at $85m. The work had previously passed through the hands of a Rome-based collector, who purchased one of its panels in the 1970s and spent the subsequent 20 years tracking down and securing the remaining two. Freud, who died in 2011, was also the subject of a second full-length Bacon triptych, painted in 1966. That work, however, is missing.