Freud portrait by Bacon sells for $142M, smashing record
"Three Studies of Lucien Freud," a 1969 triptych by the Irish-born Bacon, was sold in a Christie's auction Tuesday night in New York.
Can you put a price on friendship? You can if it's in a painting by Francis Bacon, whose three-part portrait of fellow artist Lucien Freud has set a record for the most expensive artwork ever sold.
"Three Studies of Lucien Freud," a 1969 triptych by the Irish-born Bacon, sold for $142.4 million in a Christie's auction Tuesday night in New York. It went after "six minutes of fierce bidding in the room and on the phone," Christie's said, and was bought by dealer Bill Acquavella on behalf of an unnamed client.
The bidding started at $80 million — only $5 million below the presale estimate. It then speedily outstripped the $119.9 million price that the previous record holder, Edvard Munch's "The Scream," racked up at a sale in May last year.
"I went to $101 million, but it hardly mattered," dealer Larry Gagosian told the New York Times.
That wasn't the only record set at the sale. A Jeff Koons sculpture, " Balloon Dog (Orange)," found a phone-in winner at $58.4 million, the highest price for a work by a living artist. Previous top dog was a Gerhard Richter oil painting, sold for $37.1 million.
So why the frenzy? Theories are out there, but none gets the general thumbs-up. It could be because the triptych was split up for years after being painted, so it's a chance to nab all three. Or it's the rarity of a full-length portrait of Freud, grandson of the father of psychoanalysis. Or maybe it's because it's a bright yellow.
More to the point, it could be a sign of a speculative bubble in the contemporary art world, with artwork being resold for a quick return.
"If you look at this month's big contemporary art auctions, you'll see quite a lot of art being flipped," Felix Salmon of Reuters said before the Christie's auction, noting that SAC Capital's Steven Cohen is one of those looking to profit from recent art buys.
Salmon says there could be four things going on here: galleries don't really believe in the prices they set; "smart money" is looking to get out; auction houses are sharing the buyer's premium with the seller; and rich buyers, especially those with more money than sense, are outbidding the artworld cognoscenti.
"When a bubble becomes speculative, it becomes much more dangerous, and fragile, and short-lived. This bubble is a robust one: it has been going for many years, gathering momentum all the way. Even the financial crisis barely made it stop for a breather," Salmon said, before the Christie's sale.
"But if we see another record-breaking season in New York this week, don't take that as a bullish sign. It could just be that we're entering a period of feverish selling."
More from MarketWatch
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market maintained a narrow trading range on Thursday before ending the session essentially where it began. The S&P 500 added less than a point, while the small-cap Russell 2000 (-0.2%) underperformed.
Equity indices displayed early strength thanks in part to an overnight boost from better than expected economic data in China and Europe. Specifically, China's HSBC Manufacturing PMI surged to an 18-month high (52.0 from 50.7), while Eurozone Manufacturing PMI ... More
More Market News
|There’s a problem getting this information right now. Please try again later.|
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'