In recent art world news, Christie’s fetched $130 million during its recent postwar and contemporary art auction at its Kings Street salesroom in London last Friday evening achieving a solid sell-through rate of 83 percent. However, the sale was defined by a single high profile lot that failed to sell and accounted for “one of the most notable pricing miscalculations in recent auction memory.”
The work was Francis Bacon’s “Study of Red Pope 1962.2nd Version 1971,” which was marketed with an on-request estimate of $78.4 million to $104.5 million, and would have been the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction in Europe if sold last Friday. Unfortunately, the lot flopped as the auction house could not find a buyer in the above estimate range.
However, another Francis Bacon painting entitled “Head with Raised Arm” (1955), which resembles one of the artist’s popes during a moment of reflection, did find a buyer. The work sold for about $15 million (with buyer’s premium) just above its high estimate of $13 million. The work was unveiled for the first time in more than half a century. According to writer, art historian and curator Michael Peppiatt, “Bacon’s Popes are not only the centrepiece of all his paintings in the 1950s, but a centrepiece of the whole of 20th-century art.”
It will be interesting to see if Bacon’s “Study of Red Pope 1962.2nd Version 1971” can find a buyer in any future auction sale within the above estimate range.