Tuesday, January 28, 2014
The Reason Why Francis Bacon's 'Lucian Freud' Is Worth $142 Million
Francis Bacon's piece on his friend, Lucian Freud,
became the most expensive artwork ever sold in auction
The Reason Why
Francis Bacon's 'Lucian Freud'
Is Worth $142 Million
While the world is scratching its head as it tries to digest the $142 million price tag slapped on Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” at Tuesday night’s post-war and contemporary auction in Christie’s New York headquarters, the writing appears to have been on the wall for quite some time. As the ultra-wealthy become even wealthier, the top-end of the art market, along with real estate and other luxury sectors, have experienced an incredible surge as cash is being channeled into alternative investments. Add the rarity of the piece, and the performance of the contemporary art market, and you have the recipe for a global record.
After about six minutes of “fierce” bidding, as a spokesperson for Christie’s put it, several bidders had taken the value of Bacon’s triptych from approximately $80 million, where it opened, to a final price of $127 million. After auctioneer Juri Pylkkanen hammered down the piece, the art world was left with a new auction record, with Bacon’s piece dethroning Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” which sold last year at Sotheby’s for $120 million.
The total value of the auction also marked a new record, grossing $691.6 million and leaving in the dust none other than Christie’s’ last
blockbuster evening sale held in May
which fetched $495 million. Three pieces sold for more than $50 million, with 11 pricing in north of $20 million, with a Jeff Koons and a Warhol going for nearly $60 million each.
The figures are astronomical, yet that wasn’t unexpected, according to Thomas Galbraith of online auction house Paddle8. “This is consistent with what we’ve been seeing the market doing,” Galbraith explains. “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” won its place as the world’s most expensive artwork given a confluence of factors, from the intrinsic value of the work itself to the state of the market.
“Bacon has a relatively small body of work, he wasn’t nearly as prolific as someone like Picasso,” Katherine Markley, artnet’s lead market analyst, said. While there were seven pieces by Andy Warhol up for grabs during Tuesday’s auction, “only 10 Bacon lots have come to auction in 2013,” Markley added.
Furthermore, the piece has a sort of intrinsic, yet subjective, value given its importance from an historical perspective. “The subject matter is very important for the Bacon market given the well documented camaraderie and rivalry he had with Lucian Freud,” Galbraith notes. Given the rarity of the piece, the auction house will also feed the PR machine, drawing a crowd of clients and observers that creates a feedback loop that reinforces the importance of the auction and the piece, evidenced by the completely packed room at Christie’s on Tuesday.
Another major factor is the wind that has been blowing behind the contemporary market’s sales over the past decade. From total sales of about $850 million in 2002, the contemporary sector has skyrocketed to about $6 billion last year,
artnet’s data shows
. This has happened at the expense of the impressionist and modern market, as less and less top-tier pieces come to market. Munch’s “Scream” was one of the major works of the modern and impressionist age, allowing it to become the most valuable auction sale last year, despite the rise of the contemporary market.
The final, and possibly most important factor is the rise of the mega-rich. “Since the recession, the wealthy appear to be becoming even wealthier, while middle class wages are more stagnant,” said Galbraith, who notes this is apparent in the art market where the high-end is experiencing more activity. “The ultra high net worth and the newly wealthy are looking to get into the art market,” said Markley, who notes contemporary art is accessible and acts well as a status symbol. If the Forbes 400 is any indication, the
wealthy are getting wealthier
, with the 400 richest Americans now worth a cumulative $2 trillion, up $300 billion from a year ago and with an average net worth of a record $5 billion, an $800 million increase from a year ago.
The luxury market is firing on all cylinders, as Manhattan real estate brokers can attest to. This is very clear when one looks at global art markets, particularly at the high end in New York and London, and beyond. Bacon’s record piece is but one more example of this “
” that many are calling a bubble. Yet, as long as the rich continue to get richer, there doesn’t appear to be any indication this trend will reverse itself.
Biografía de Lucian Freud
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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