A special Francis Bacon sale in Paris


On 24 October Sotheby’s Paris will be offering an exceptional set of works by Francis Bacon from the Majid Boustany Collection, patron and president of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation in Monaco, a non-profit institution dedicated to the British artist. Ahead of this event Artprice takes a quick look at the French auction market for this monument of 20th century art.

Thirty years after his death, Sotheby’s will be selling a set of remarkable Bacon works in Paris on behalf of Majid Boustany’s Monegasque Foundation. The day chosen for this live sale is no coincidence, it being the anniversary of George Dyer’s death on 24 October 1971, two days before the opening of the famous Francis Bacon retrospective at the Grand Palais.

When Bacon erupted into my life, I was fascinated by this singular giant. Majid Boustany

Under the title Inside the World of Francis Bacon, this sale notably includes an important painting from 1949, Figure Crouching (estimated between 3.5 and 5 million euros), two works on paper and a very rare rug signed by the artist in 1929. Other historical objects in the sale include a plate used by Bacon as a painter’s palette (estimated 20,000 – 30,000 euros), a photograph used as a working document and covered with paint, and other elements, all from Bacon’s Paris studio.

In price terms, this selection of around twenty lots is being proposed in a range that is far below the huge sums that Bacon’s best triptychs have fetched in the past, and it is precisely for this reason that it will attract a large number of bidders. One of the most enigmatic Post-War artists, Bacon, is one of the favorite artists of collectors.


Francis Bacon: a painter’s palette (for sell at Sotheby’s Paris)

Francis Bacon in France

French collectors in particular are fervent enthusiasts of Francis BACON (1909-1992) work. Some of them knew him well as Bacon took up residence in France on many occasions. At the end of the 1920s, at the age of 17, Bacon immersed himself in French culture during his first stay in Paris, staying with a family in Chantilly to learn French. Indeed, it was at this time that he decided to become a painter, after discovering the works of Pablo Picasso during an exhibition at the Galerie Paul Rosenberg in Paris. In 1946, Bacon left London for Monaco, where he would stay until the early 1950s. It was there that he painted his first Pope, inspired by Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. In 1974, he rented a studio-apartment in Paris that he kept until 1984. Throughout his life, Bacon frequently stayed in Paris, Monaco and the south of France.

In 1971 the Grand-Palais in Paris hosted his first retrospective, considered to be a capital event in Bacon’s career. According to the exhibition curator and specialist in Modern and Contemporary painting, Didier Ottinger, “historians consider that exhibition at the Grand Palais as the start of Bacon’s international consecration”. Before that, only Picasso had been offered a lifetime retrospective at the Grand Palais (in 1966). Unfortunately the event was marked by tremendous personal tragedy as George Dyer, Francis Bacon’s companion, committed suicide two days before it opened in the hotel room they occupied together.

Between Paris and Monaco, Bacon produced a large number of works in France. He also edited lithographs in collaboration with Adrien Maeght. The French auction market is therefore one of the densest for his signature, but they are essentially prints which constitute nearly 98% of the artist’s global market. His exceptional paintings are primarily sold in the United States, which accounts for 81% of the artist’s auction turnover.


Francis Bacon. Geographic distribution: number of lots sold at auction, 2000-2022 (copyright Artprice.com)


Francis Bacon. Geographic distribution: turnover at auction, 2000-2022 (copyright Artprice.com)


Top 3 results in France

$20.1 million: Seated Woman (Portrait of Muriel Belcher) (1961). Sotheby’s Paris, 12 December 2007.

$9.2 million: Figure on a Dais (c.1958-1959). Christie’s Paris, 05/30/2007.

$7.3 million: Pope (c.1957/59). Sotheby’s Paris, 05/26/2008.


Top 3 global results / painting

$142.4 million: Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969). Christie’s New York, 12/11/2013.

$86.3 million: Triptych (1976). Sotheby’s New York, 05/14/2008.

$84.5 million: Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981). Sotheby’s New York, 06/29/2020.


Francis Bacon: world ranking at auction (copyright Artprice.com)