Thursday, November 13, 2008

Financial Distress According To Francis Bacon

A Francis Bacon self-portrait failed to sell at auction in New York, in another sign the souring economy is having a crushing effect on fall season art sales.

Bacon's 1964 "Study for Self Portrait'' -- billed as a highlight of Christie's contemporary art auction -- was estimated to take in some US$40 million (HK$312 million).

But when the bidding stopped at US$27.4 million the esteemed auction house halted the proceedings, to a chorus of gasps.

A Bacon triptych went under the hammer in New York last May for US$86.2 million, a record for the British painter.

Seventy-five contemporary works were on sale.
Among the most important lots was a Jean-Michel Basquiat painter of a boxer, owned by Metallica co-founder and drummer Lars Ulrich, which fetched just over 13.5 million US dollars but short of the record 14.6 million for a Basquiat.

The global financial tsunami has not spared the art market, and sales of impressionist, modern and contemporary works since the fall season kicked off November 3 have been well below previous levels. The number of unsold works has often exceeded 30 or 40 percent of lots this month, and barring a few notable exceptions the sales prices are on the whole lower than the estimates for the majority of pieces.

To be fair, Francis Bacon did not just do a couple of self portraits, he did plenty, I think close to a dozen - not a very good idea Frankie. I have included my favourite Francis Bacon piece, Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, absolutely dazzling, frightful and demands your attention. Actually, the painting should now be called "Caught Up In The Financial Mess Of The 21st Century", I think Bacon captured the entire essence and drama of that theme.

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