Friday, December 14, 2007

Francis Bacon's Seated Woman Sold for $20 Million, Highest Price for Work of Art in France

Francis Bacon's Seated Woman Sold for $20 Million, Highest Price for Work of Art in France

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Francis Bacon, Seated Woman (Portrait of Muriel Belcher), 1961. Highest price for a work of art in France since 1989. Highest price for a work of Contemporary Art in France. © Sotheby's Images.

PARIS, FRANCE.-, December 12th, 2007 – Sotheby’s inaugural Evening Sale of Contemporary Art tonight achieved a phenomenal total of €23,140,600 ($33,869,276; £16,569,285), the highest total for a sale of Contemporary Art staged by Sotheby’s in Continental Europe and the highest total for any auction held at Sotheby’s in France.

The top lot in tonight’s sale was Francis Bacon’s study, entitled Seated Woman (Portrait of Muriel Belcher), which sold for €13,696,250 ($20,046,242) – the highest price ever paid for a work of Contemporary Art in France.

Seated Woman portrays an isolated woman on a seemingly dismantled couch. It shows her seated practically hunched over, and almost suspended between two swathes of lilac and bottle green. Muriel Belcher was a bartender at the Colony Room, Bacon’s favourite drinking hole in London’s Soho, and she was not only a friend and confidante of the artist, but also became one of his favourite models, along with Isabel Rawsthorne and Henrietta Moraes. The work had a pre-sale estimate of €7.5-10 million, which was comfortably eclipsed after a protracted bidding war between two collectors, one in the room and another on the telephone. Finally, the client bidding in the room won the battle when the auctioneer brought the hammer down at €12.2 million, and the room broke into applause.

Guillaume Cerutti, Président-directeur General, Sotheby’s France, said: “Tonight, Paris has confirmed its stature in the international market for Contemporary Art. This has been the biggest sale organised by Sotheby’s Paris to date since 2001, when the French market was opened.”

Grégoire Billault, Head of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Paris, added: “The result achieved for Francis Bacon’s portrait of Muriel Belcher has vindicated our decision to propose Paris as the selling location for the work. Tonight we achieved the sixth highest price for a work by Bacon at auction and have confirmed Sotheby’s domination in the market for his works.”

Sotheby’s has had an exceptionally successful year for works by Francis Bacon, having now sold five of the top six most expensive works by the artist at auction, and achieving a world record price for him at auction in New York in May for Study from Innocent X (1962), which sold for $52.7 million, which was followed by Self Portrait (1978), sold in London in June for £21.6 ($42.6) million – the most expensive Post-War work of art ever sold in Europe. Seated Woman is the sixth highest price paid for a work by Bacon at auction, and has now established Paris as the third most important selling location for Post-War art and in particular works by the artist.

The seller of Seated Woman, Mrs Audrey Irmas, said after tonight’s sale: “We are thrilled beyond words by the result achieved for Seated Woman, which has been a prized part of our collection for a number of years. The proceeds from the sale of the painting will be donated to the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Family Foundation and will be used particularly to address women’s causes around the world. In the first year alone, we intend to donate $300,000 each to women’s programmes in Darfur, New Orleans and South Central Los Angeles.”

The sale continues tomorrow, and will be followed by a sale of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist Art, which will conclude Sotheby’s Paris Week.

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