Francis Bacon painting could set artist record


NEW YORK (AP) — A 1969 triptych by Francis Bacon of his friend and artist Lucian Freud is poised to topple the $86 million auction record for the British artist.

"Three Studies of Lucian Freud" is being offered Tuesday evening at Christie's postwar and contemporary sale. Bacon's 1976 "Triptych" currently holds the record, set in 2008.

It remains to be seen if "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" will top the nearly $120 million paid for Edvard Munch's "The Scream." That became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction at a Sotheby's sale in 2012.

Among other highlights at Christie's is a bright orange-yellow and white oil painting by Mark Rothko. Reminiscent of a radiating sunset, the 1957 large-scale "Untitled (No. 11)" could fetch up to $35 million. In May 2012, Christie's sold Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow" for $86.8 million, a record for any contemporary artwork at auction.

Christie's also has an iconic Andy Warhol, "Coca-Cola (3)," estimated at $40 million to $60 million. The current Warhol auction record is $71.7 million for "Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I)," set in 2007.

Other blue-chip offerings at Christie's include Jeff Koons' whimsical "Balloon Dog (Orange)," a 10-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture resembling a twisted child's party balloon. It is expected to sell for up to $55 million. It is one of five balloon dogs Koons has created in different colors. All are in private hands. It is being sold by newsprint magnate Peter Brant to benefit his Brant Foundation Art Study in Greenwich, Conn.

Also on tap is a masterpiece by German painter Gerhard Richter from the collection of Eric Clapton. Painted in gold and orange hues, the 1994 "Abstract Painting" is estimated to bring as much as $20 million. Richter's photo-based "Cathedral Square, Milan" brought $37 million at Sotheby's in May, setting a record for any living artist at auction.

Roy Lichtenstein's "Seductive Girl" could bring up to $28 million. The artist auction record is $56 million for "Woman With Flowered Hat," sold at Christie's in May.

Christie's also is offering an oil painting by Edward Ruscha of the American flag from the collection of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. "Untitled, 1985," which depicts the Stars and Stripes fluttering in the breeze, is estimated to bring $1.5 million to $2.5 million. It is one of five flag renditions Ruscha painted between 1985 and 1987. Three are in private or museum collections; one remains with the artist.

On Wednesday evening, Sotheby's is offering Andy Warhol's "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)," a provocative double-panel painting that could bring as much as $80 million.

Warhol produced four paintings in the "Death and Disaster" series. The other three are in museums.

Measuring 8 feet by 13 feet, the 1963 silver work captures the immediate aftermath of a car crash, a twisted body sprawled across its mangled interior. It has been seen in public only once in the past 26 years.