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Three Studies of Lucian Freud: Francis Bacon’s triptych becomes most expensive artwork ever sold at auction

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A Francis Bacon’s painting featuring his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud has become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction after it fetched $142.4 million in New York.

The triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, painted in 1969, is considered one of Francis Bacon’s greatest masterpieces.

The artwork was sold after six minutes of fierce bidding, Christie’s auction house said.

The price eclipsed the $119.9 million paid for Edvard Munch’s The Scream last year.


At the same auction, Jeff Koons broke the world record for a price paid for a single artwork by a living artist.

Jeff Koons’ sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange) – one of a series of five stainless steel sculptures in varying colors – fetched $58,4 million.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud, painted in 1969, is considered one of Francis Bacon's greatest masterpieces

Three Studies of Lucian Freud, painted in 1969, is considered one of Francis Bacon’s greatest masterpieces

The previous record for a living artist was set by a Gerhard Richter painting depicting an Italian city square, which sold in May for $37.1 million.

It was the first time Three Studies of Lucian Freud had been offered at auction and bidding opened at $80 million. Its presale estimate was $85 million.

Christie’s did not disclose the identity of the buyer.

Francis Bacon, known for his triptychs, painted Three Studies of Lucian Freud in 1969 at London’s Royal College of Art, after his studio was destroyed in a fire.

The pair met in 1945 and became close companions, painting each other on a number of occasions, before their relationship cooled during the 1970s.

Exhibited in Francis Bacon’s renowned retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1971-1972, the three panels that form the painting were separated in the mid-1970s.

One panel was shown at the Tate in 1985 before the three sections were reassembled.

The complete work was displayed in New Haven, Connecticut in 1999.

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