Sotheby’s London was again breaking records this evening when a rare Francis Bacon triptych of George Dyer attracted bids from four collectors around the world, far surpassing its estimate and selling to a telephone bidder for a landmark price of £26,682,500 ($45,400,274). The sum paid sets a new benchmark for a small-scale triptych by the artist, eclipsing the previous record of £23 million* for a work in this format. Underbidding from Patti Wong, Sotheby’s Chairman in Asia, helped drive the price to well over £20 million.
Depicting the man who was the love of Bacon’s life at the moment when they were most deeply involved, Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on light ground) is an exceptionally rare lifetime depiction of Dyer and full of the painterly exuberance that marks out Bacon as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. An outstanding example of Bacon at the height of his powers, this museum-quality work is also of critical importance because it is, in all likelihood, the first painting for which Bacon used the legendary photographs by his friend John Deakin as source material for a painting of George Dyer. This exceptional work had only rarely been seen in public, having remained in the same collection since 1970. It appeared at auction tonight for the first time ever with an estimate of £15-20 million – an estimate that was quickly left behind.
A new record was also set for the British artist Peter Doig this evening when his Canadian landscape Country-rock (wing-mirror), sold for a landmark £8,482,500 ($14,432,974).
Cheyenne Westphal, Co-Global Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, said: “For lovers of Doig, this work enjoys a supreme status. We were thrilled to see it set a new benchmark price for the artist this evening, affirming yet again the market’s huge appreciation for his work.”
Having remained in the same collection since 1999, the year it was painted, Country-rock (wing-mirror) belongs to a series of three works which together rank among the most celebrated and desirable in the artist’s oeuvre. Painted in London at a key turning-point in the artist’s career, the work depicts a much-loved landmark near Toronto: the rainbow tunnel, which mysteriously first appeared above an underpass alongside the city’s Don Valley Parkway in 1972 when Doig was growing up in Canada. In this particular painting, the tunnel is seen from the passenger seat of a car, and the title is the soundtrack to the journey. Click here for full pre-sale release on the painting.
Sotheby’s evening sale is still underway, with Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign encapsulating the relationship between art and money, both then and now. Warhol once said, ‘I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a $200,000 painting, I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall. Then, when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall.” But following the result for his work this evening, that visitor would see not $200,000, but £4,002,500 ($6,810,254) – the price paid by a collector bidding on the telephone tonight.