The Art Newspaper Offers a Detailed Catalogue of Bacon Collectors
The 1976 triptych definitely went to Abramovich. For some, buying works is so much easier than borrowing; it appears that a major Bacon exhibition is in the making. Entitled “Death Shadowing Life: Francis Bacon: The Late Paintings, 1971-1992” and curated by Martin Harrison, the author of the forthcoming Bacon catalogue raisonné, it will open in 2010 in the new CCC gallery in Moscow set up by Abramovich’s girlfriend Daria Zhukova. The show will also travel to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
So the Bacon boom is not just about a billionaire with a girlfriend who has intelligent taste. The buyers are incredibly diverse. Last year, Sheikha Al Mayassa, daughter of the Emir of Qatar, threw down $53m on Study From Innocent X, a Pope with a red background from 1962. Then in February, the British currency trader and principal owner of Tottenham Hotspur, Joseph C. Lewis, acquired Triptych 1974, an exquisitely composed work featuring male nudes and black umbrellas on a purgatorial beach, for what now looks like the bargain price of £26m. Most recently, word has it that an Irish billionaire was the winner of the 1975 triptych Self-Portrait with Parisian provenance which sold at Christie’s for £17m in June.
Thornton goes on to point out that Bacon’s rise may also be part of shift toward a more British or continental sensibility in the art market:
With the Bacon market, we are witnessing a genuine shift in cultural sensibility. What used to be perceived as “difficult” now feels “real” and where Bacon paintings used to be viewed as morbid and distressing, they are now seen as exhilaratingly raw. This shift relates to two other cultural trends: a swing in the epicentre of the art market from New York to London and the long, slow return of figurative painters to the canon of the avant-garde.
Finally, the support of museums and a clever estate have been crucial:
Museum blockbusters and intellectual reappraisals are also integral to escalating values. The Tate has been a loyal supporter of Bacon, having given him two retrospectives during his lifetime (in 1962 and 1985) and having acquired 14 paintings and 36 sketches over the years. Why the museum turned down the estate’s offer of Bacon’s studio contents is anyone’s guess. Word has it that it was a “ghastly misunderstanding” in the furious run up to the opening of Tate Modern. As a result, the Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery became the proud host of the most meticulous re-construction of an artist’s studio ever undertaken. “If Bacon woke up from the dead, he could go straight back to work in the room,” says Hugh Lane curator Patrick Casey.
Needless to say, Tate Britain’s upcoming retrospective, which contains 70 paintings and is accompanied by a catalogue that is both illustrated and scholarly, will likely strengthen collector demand for the work, particularly as it travels to the Prado in Madrid, then the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2009.
Another set of factors crucial to the market of any dead artist relate to the strategic decisions of the estate. Bacon died in Madrid in April 1992 at the age of 82. He left everything, including his studio and some 17 or so paintings, to his good friend and artistic subject, John Edwards, who in turn appointed artist Brian Clarke as executor.
Francis Bacon Claims His Place at the Top of the Art Market (The Art Newspaper)
Francis Bacon: Behind the Myth (The Telegraph)
The Power and the Passion (The Guardian)