A Christie's employee looks at "Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards" by Francis Bacon during a photo call in central London ahead of an auction in New York. (AFP photo)
A triptych by Francis Bacon of his longtime companion is poised to sell for about $80 million at Christie's as the spring art auction season revs up with sales of postwar and contemporary works.
A provocative image by Andy Warhol of the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, race riots and a seminal painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat of a regal warrior figure are among other big-ticket items coming up for sale Tuesday evening.
Bacon's "Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards" was executed in 1984 and comes on the market a year after Christie's sold his 1969 "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" for $142.4 million, setting a world record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.
Bacon, who died in 1992, named Edwards his sole heir. Edwards oversaw the British artist's archives until his death in 2003. The three-panel work shows him in a relaxed pose sitting on a stool with his right leg crossed over his left knee.
Christie's says it is one of the greatest paintings from the artist's late period.
Warhol's "Race Riot, 1964," a rare four-panel painting from his "Death and Disaster" series, is estimated to sell for $45 million. It was a direct response to an article Warhol saw in Life magazine that ran with an image by Associated Press Photographer Charles Moore.
Another "Death and Disaster" painting at the sale is "White Marilyn." Warhol painted it in 1962 shortly after the Hollywood star took her life. It has a pre-sale estimate of $12 million to $18 million.
The current Warhol auction record is $105 million for his "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)."
Estimated to bring between $20 million and $30 million, Basquiat's 1981 "Untitled" is replete with graffiti imagery and text and marks his "transcendence from the leading figure on the underground art scene to the established world of international art stardom," Christie's said. His "Dustheads," which sold last spring for $48.8 million, holds the auction record for the New York artist.
Christie's also is offering Jeff Koons' "Jim Beam J.B. Turner Train," a 9 1/2-foot (3-meter)-long-stainless steel sculpture filled with bourbon that is expected to bring $25 million. Last spring, his "Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million, setting a world auction record for a living artist. Another celebrated work, Mark Rothko's "Untitled" is estimated at $40 million to $60 million. It is a large abstract oil painting with colors ranging from a silvery mist to a deep violet.
On Wednesday, more art is on tap at Sotheby's.
A 1986 group of six Warhol self-portraits is expected to bring $25 million to $35 million. The identical silk-screen images in different colors depict Warhol in his famous "fright wig."
Among other standouts at Sotheby's is Koons' 7-foot (2-meter)-tall stainless steel sculpture, "Popeye," estimated to bring $25 million.