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Francis Bacon fever flares anew during spring auctions in NY

NEW YORK--Hype over Francis Bacon, whose work fetched a record price last year, is set to hit fever pitch when a new triptych goes under the hammer next week.

Traditional auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's get into gear Tuesday and Thursday with modern and impressionist art expected to fetch a total of US$1.9 billion, followed by ever more popular post-war contemporary the following week.

Christie's is forecasting total spring season sales of US$979 million, while Sotheby's is forecasting US$934.15 million — solid numbers that underscore the current strength of the fine art market today.

With greater numbers of buyers interested in works from the post-1945 era, attention once again is turning to Bacon, whose “Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards” (1984) will go on the block at Christie's May 13 for an estimated US$75 million.

It is a portrait of Bacon's close friend and confidant from the mid-1970s until the artist's death in 1992. Edwards, who died in 2003, was the sole heir to Bacon's paintings and properties.

Another Bacon triptych — composed of three panels or pieces — “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” sold for US$142.4 million in New York last year, smashing the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever auctioned.

That outdid the previous high of US$119.9 million for Edvard Munch's iconic “The Scream” set in May 2012.

The current Bacon-mania had yet another jaw-dropping day in February when his “Portrait of George Dyer Talking” sold for a dizzying US$70 million in London.

The triptych about to be on the block in New York was considered among his finest works, by Bacon himself.

“This particular work portraits Bacon's most celebrated subject and really closest and most significant relationship with John Edwards,” said Christie's postwar and contemporary specialist Sara Friedlander.

“We are anticipating wonderful results for this work.”

Warhol: More than 15 Minutes

Christie's will have on offer three works by American artists expected to fetch about US$50 million each at its postwar and contemporary event: Andy Warhol's “Race Riot,” “Untitled” by Mark Rothko and “Black fire” by Barnett Newman.

Warhol's monumental “Silver Car Crash” (Double Disaster)” was sold in November for more then US$105 million — so his proverbial 15 minutes of (extreme) fame apparently are not over yet.

On Christie's heels, Sotheby's has some love for Warhol as well: it will sell his “Six Self Portraits” for an estimated US$25-35 million.

Also coming up on the Sotheby's May 14 postwar and contemporary block are the sculpture “Popeye” by American Jeff Koons, at about US$25 million, and the oil painting “Blau” by German Gerhard Richter. It too is expected to fetch US$25-35 million.

Monet, Picasso and Kandinsky

The New York spring auctions start off on a strong note Tuesday with the sale of Frenchman Claude Monet's oils “Nympheas” and Pablo Picasso's “Portrait de femme (Dora Maar)” — both expected to earn around US$35 million.

Also expected to fetch top dollar are Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky's “Strandszene” (US$16-22 million) and the bronze “Femme de Venise IV” by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (US$10-18 million).

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Sara Friedlander, Post-War and Contemporary Art expert, speaks in front of Francis Bacon's “Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards,” painted in 1984, on display on Friday, May 2.

(AFP

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