NEW YORK – Christie’s auction house on Thursday sold “Study for Portrait” by Irish painter Francis Bacon, one of his many portraits depicting his lover and muse George Dyer, for $49.8 million in New York.
The Christie’s contemporary art auction, which included works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Richard Diebenkorn and Clyfford Still, sold about 60 lots worth $397 million, marking the end of an intense week of evening auctions organized by Christie’s and Sotheby’s that sold art worth $1.416 billion.
Painted in 1977, “Study for Portrait” is one of the many paintings that Bacon dedicated to his muse, Dyer, a handsome young burglar and Bacon’s lover who became a dominating figure in his artworks.
The bid closed with a hammer price that exceeded the initial value estimated at $30 million by $14 million, plus commission, replacing “Three studies for a portrait of George Dyer” (1963), which was sold for $38.6 million last November, as the new highest valued painting of Bacon.
The pair is believed to have met when Dyer came to break into the artist’s apartment. The young thief, born into a family of criminals, was captivated by the painter’s success. Bacon, in turn fell for Dyer’s vulnerable nature, but their relationship turned tumultuous and Dyer ended up committing suicide in 1971.
Another star of the night was Warhol’s “Most Wanted Men No. 11, John Joseph H. Jr.” and “Double Elvis Ferus Type,” which fetched $28.4 million and $37 million, respectively, despite initial values estimated at $30 million each.
“Most Wanted Men No. 11, John Joseph H. Jr,” depicting a 22-year-old thief, is a part of Warhol’s “Most Wanted Men” series which portrayed some of the most wanted criminals on the occasion of the World Fair in New York in 1964.
“Double Elvis Ferus Type,” starring Elvis as the protagonist of the work, was auctioned in 2012 for the exact same amount as on Thursday.
Another highlight was “Play-Doh” by Jeff Koons, a three-meter high sculpture representing a mound of playdough, which sold for $22.8 million.