Bacon triptych fetches $142 million at auction.
Although the economy has started to recover after the global recession, there has been one market that seems to have been, so far, invincible when it comes to raising high prices at auction houses in the US and UK. The art market has had yet another milestone this month with Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) becoming the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction after the gavel came down at $142 million, £89 million, at Christie’s auction house in New York on the 12th November.
Francis Bacon, born in Dublin in 1909, is famous for his triptychs and for his paintings of Pope Innocent X. Not all attention to the artist to date has been favourable, Baroness Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, described Bacon as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”. Dreadful or the height of artistic talent, Bacon’s works are highly coveted and last month’s record breaking auction cements his place in art history. The question yet to be answered is, for how long art prices can keep rising, although currently the market shows no sign of slowing down.
However, the rising art prices does come with a risk. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) last week claimed that there is a worrying trend in organised criminal groups targeting art both on public display and in private collections. This art, they claim, is stolen to fund further criminal activity with links to money laundering, violent crime and drugs which causes great concern for the ACPO. A task force for dealing with art crime in the UK, lead by the ACPO which also includes the English Heritage, has published an assessment of heritage crime and how to tackle this problem. This assessment also notes that the upcoming centenary of the outbreak of the First World War might have a possible impact on art crime in the near future.