New York City, US, May 19 (EFE).- The last of Francis Bacon’s famous papal portraits was sold on Thursday for $46 million at an auction of contemporary art at Sotheby’s in New York.
The sale of “Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971,” which has been in private hands since 1973 and has a tragic history, took place five years after it failed to sell at Christie’s in London, which made an overly optimistic valuation.
The Irish-born modernist painter depicts a “haunting” encounter between the Pope and Bacon’s lover, George Dyer, who committed suicide two days before the work was unveiled to the public at a career-defining exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1971.
It is the last papal portrait of several dozen that Bacon painted, inspired by Diego Velázquez’s “Portrait of Pope Innocent X,” 1650, but despite its historical significance, it failed to fetch a price close to the artist’s most expensive painting, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” sold in 2013 for $142.4 million.
This Bacon painting’s selling price was closer to its minimum value of $40 million than to the maximum of $60 million predicted by Sotheby’s and that was the general tone of the auction, which had three dozen pieces, most of them paintings.
The next most valuable work was an untitled painting by the American Cy Twombly, of circular scribbles in wax on a dark gray background, which sold for $38 million.
Andy Warhol’s “Elvis,” in which rock-and-roll legend Elvis Presley is dressed as a gunslinger, raked in $21.6 million.
A huge painting by Ed Ruscha that had “Cold Beer Beautiful Girls” stenciled in white letters onto an image of clouds fetched $18.82 million, and David Hockney’s colorful “Grand Canyon III,” sold for $11.03 million.
Perhaps the only surprise was German artist Georg Baselitz’s record-breaking sculpture “Women of Dresden,” which was estimated at a maximum $4 million but sold for $11.24 million. EFE