LONDON (AFP) — A three-canvas painting by Francis Bacon sold in London for 26.34 million pounds (35.24 million euros, 51.68 million dollars) Wednesday, but narrowly missed out on a record for the artist at auction.
The figurative artist's "Triptych 1974-1977", which had been in private hands, was described by auction house Christie's as "the most important work by Francis Bacon to ever appear at auction".
It was expected to fetch upwards of 25 million pounds, but despite beating this figure the final price fell just short of the record for a Bacon sold at auction.
Despite insisting that the sale was a "fantastic result," the auction house's head of post-war and contemporary art Pilar Ordovas acknowledged that "a triptych can't be sold as easily as a single panel".
Before the sale, Christie's had predicted that "the painting is expected to break the current record for any British artist."
Bacon's "Study from Innocent X" (1962) was sold in May last year for 26.58 million pounds, and also represents the record for any work by a British or Irish artist sold at auction.
The record for any post-war painting sold at auction is held by Mark Rothko's "Yellow, Pink, Lavender on Rose", which fetched 72.8 million dollars (37.1 million pounds) at a sale in New York in May.
Dublin-born Bacon, who died in 1992, created "Triptych 1974-1977" on the eve of a major exhibition of his work in New York in 1974 in response to the suicide of his lover, George Dyer, in a Paris hotel three years earlier.
It shows sequential images of dark, ominous umbrellas and Bacon's lover struggling on a near-deserted beach. Many of Bacon's works after this time were preoccupied with Dyer and the tragic manner of his death.
Overall, the evening's auction raised a total of 72.9 million pounds, though 17 of the 54 lots available failed to sell, with Ordovas conceding that Christie's "estimated some works too high".
Wednesday's sale was part of a bumper week of auctions of impressionist, modern, post-war and contemporary works by some of the world's most famous artists by Christie's and rival Sotheby's.
They were expected to defy the financial turbulence sparked by the global credit crunch, with one auction house director predicting earlier that as much as 560 million dollars worth of art could be sold.
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