One of the art world’s most recognisable images, it has become a modern symbol for human anxiety.
Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud has become the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, fetching a price of $142.4m.
A sculpture by Jeff Koons also broke the world auction record for a living artist at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art sale on Tuesday evening in New York City.
Bacon’s 1969 triptych, never before offered at auction and which carried a pre-sale estimate of about $85m, easily eclipsed the $119.9m price of Edvard Munch’s The Scream fetched in May of last year at Sotheby’s.
The previous record for a Bacon work of art was $86.3m set in 2008.
The work sold after “six minutes of fierce bidding in the room and on the phone” to Acquavella Galleries in Manhattan, Christie’s said in a statement.
The price included the buyer’s premium.
The price tag surpassed the nearly $120 million paid for Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which set a world record when it was sold at Sotheby’s in a 2012 sale.
The sculpture by Koons which also broke the world auction record was the whimsical Balloon Dog (Orange), a 10ft-tall stainless steel sculpture resembling a twisted child’s party balloon.
It sold for $58.4m, a world auction record for the artist and a world auction record for a living artist, Christie’s said.
The auction house did not reveal the buyer.
It is one of five balloon dogs Koons has created in different colours. All are in private hands. It was sold by newsprint magnate Peter Brant to benefit his Brant Foundation Art Study in Greenwich, Connecticut.
A 1977 painting by Willem De Kooning, Untitled VIII, sold for over $32m, a world auction record for the artist.
In 2006, De Kooning’s Untitled XXV sold for $27.1m.
Warhol and Rothko
Other highlights at Christie’s auction on Tuesday included an iconic Andy Warhol, Coca-Cola (3), which fetched $57.2m. It was estimated to sell for $40m to $60m.
The Warhol auction record is $71.7m for Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), sold in 2007.
There also was a bright orange-yellow and white oil painting by Mark Rothko.
Reminiscent of a radiating sunset, the 1957 large-scale Untitled (No 11) garnered over $46m.
In May 2012, Christie’s sold Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow for $86.8m, a record for any contemporary artwork at auction.
The auction also featured a masterpiece by German painter Gerhard Richter from the collection of rock star Eric Clapton.
Painted in gold and orange hues, the 1994 Abstract Painting sold for $20.8 million.
Richter’s photo-based Cathedral Square, Milan brought $37m at Sotheby’s in May, setting a then record for any living artist at auction.
Roy Lichtenstein’s Seductive Girl was purchased for $31.5m.
The artist’s auction record is $56m for Woman With Flowered Hat, sold at Christie’s in May.
Christie’s said the Tuesday sale brought in over $691.5m, which it said is the highest total for any single auction in history.