To Attract Big Numbers
When an artist’s works begin fetching astronomical prices, other works by him or her will almost inevitably, and immediately, come to auction. Francis Bacon fits that bill; in the last year nine of his paintings have each fetched more than $25 million, and a 1976 triptych sold for $86.3 million at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night, becoming the most expensive work of contemporary art ever sold at auction.
So it is not surprising that at Sotheby’s next big contemporary-art auction, in London on July 1, one of the star paintings will be “Study for Head of George Dyer,” a 1967 portrait Bacon painted of his companion, who committed suicide in 1971.
Although 129 photographs of Dyer were discovered in Bacon’s studio after his death in 1992, this portrait is one of only two he painted in a 14-by-12-inch format. Bacon’s inspiration was a photograph of Dyer taken by John Deakin.
While Sotheby’s is not saying who is selling the painting, experts familiar with Bacon’s work say it belongs to Ian and Mercedes Stoutzker, who bought it from the Marlborough Gallery only two months after it was painted. Sotheby’s estimates a price of about $15.5 million.
“It is one of the most literal translations Bacon did after a photograph,” said Oliver Barker, of Sotheby’s contemporary-art department in London.