A Sizzling Francis Bacon Helps Christie's Cook Up $126 Million at Its London Contemporary Sale

LONDON — Powered by a rare-to-market Francis Bacon painting of a reclining female nude, Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Art evening sale shot to £80,576,100 ($126,504,477), the highest contemporary mark for the house here since June 2008.

The tally came close to the high end of the £56.77 to 84 million ($88.96-131.9 million) estimate range, selling 58 of the 65 lots offered. Percentage wise, 11 percent by lot failed to sell and only five percent by value. Three artist records were set, 16 lots fetched over a million pounds, and 26 exceeded one million dollars. It surpassed the February 2011 figure of £61.4 million ($99.2 million) and ranks as the second highest earning contemporary London sale for Christie’s, trailing only June 2008’s boom-time figure of £86.2 million ($172 million).

Deep pocket bidding was felt early on as Christopher Wool’s ultra-graphic, enamel-on-aluminum word painting, “Untitled,” from 1990, spelling out the word FOOL, sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for a record £4.91 million ($7.71 million) (est.£2.5-3.5 million). It vanquished the previous Wool mark of $5 million set for “Blue Fool” at Christie’s New York in May 2010. It was one of three works carrying so-called third-party guarantees, meaning a sale was guaranteed no matter what the outcome.

At least five bidders chased the work, including Paris dealer John Sayegh-Belchatowski, who dropped out at £4 million, a mere £350,000 shy of the winning hammer bid. “It’s a masterpiece,” opined Sayegh-Belchatowski, “but at this level, it’s not for a dealer.” 

For the complete article by Judd Tully go to Art Info