Francis Bacon (artist) - Art Market

Art Market

In 1947, artist Graham Sutherland connected Bacon with Erica Brausen, who represented Bacon for twelve years. Despite this representation, Bacon did not mount a one-man show with Brausen’s Hanover Gallery until 1949. In 1958 he joined the Marlborough Fine Art gallery, and from then until 1992, Marlborough was his sole dealer. In return for his signing a 10-year contract, Marlborough advanced him the money against current and future paintings, with the price of each to be determined by its size. A painting measuring 20 inches by 24 inches was valued at £165 ($462), while one of 65 inches by 78 inches was valued at £420 ($ 1,176); these were two sizes that Bacon favored. According to the contract, the painter would try to supply the gallery with £3,500 ($9,800) worth of pictures each year.

In 1999, England's High Court ruled that Marlborough Fine Art had to be replaced by a new independent representative for the Bacon estate. The estate moved its business to Faggionato Fine Arts in Europe and Tony Shafrazi in New York. That same year, the estate sued Marlborough U.K. and Marlborough International, Vaduz, charging them of wrongfully exploiting Bacon in a relationship that was manifestly disadvantageous to him until his death in 1992, and then to his estate. The suit alleged that Marlborough in London grossly underpaid Bacon for his works and then resold them through its Liechtenstein branch at much higher prices. It also contended that Marlborough never supplied a complete accounting of Bacon's works and sales and that Marlborough handled some works it has never accounted for. The suit was dropped in early 2002 when both sides agreed to pay their own costs and Marlborough released all its documents about Bacon. In 2003, the estate was handed over to a four-person trust based on the Channel island of Jersey.

During his lifetime, Bacon's Van Gogh paintings — a small series from the late 1950s — were most highly prized. At auction, the Pope paintings and large triptychs tend to command the highest prices, but demand is also strong for the portraits. Already in 1989, Bacon became the most expensive living artist when one of his triptychs sold at Sotheby’s for over $6 million. In 2007, actress Sophia Loren consigned Study for Portrait II (1956) from the estate of her late husband Carlo Ponti at Christie's; it was auctioned for the record price of £14.2 million ($27.5 million). On 14 May 2008, the Triptych, 1976, “a landmark of the 20th-century canon,” sold at Sotheby's contemporary art sale for €55.465 million ($86.28 million), a record for the artist and the highest price ever paid for a post-war work of art at auction. Sold by the Moueix family, producers of Château Pétrus wines, it was bought by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. The sale broke the 2007 record for his work of €34.212 million ($52.68 million). The triptych had remained in the same European collection since its 1977 purchase from a London gallery.

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