Bacon work may fetch 25 million pounds

An employee walks past "Triptych 1974-77" by Francis Bacon at Christie's in London, January 7, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) - A triptych by Irish-born artist Francis Bacon, a response to the suicide of his lover George Dyer, is expected to fetch around 25 million pounds when it is sold next month, Christie’s said on Monday.

The work, called “Triptych 1974-77”, could challenge the current record for the artist which stands at 26.6 million pounds for “Study from Innocent X, 1962” sold by Sotheby’s in New York in May, 2007.

The triptych will go under the hammer in London on February 6.

“Painted just in time for his 1974 show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as a tribute to George Dyer, ‘Triptych 1974-77’ is the most important triptych by Francis Bacon to appear ever at auction,” said Pilar Ordovas, head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s in London.

The painting features two images of a figure writhing on a beach under dark umbrellas, while the third, central part shows a figure overlooked by two sinister faces.

Dyer committed suicide in 1971 in a Paris hotel room that he and the artist were sharing.

Christie’s goes head to head with rival Sotheby’s, which is offering Bacon’s “Study of a Nude with Figure in a Mirror” on February 27. The work is estimated at 18-25 million pounds.

The private collector selling the triptych will be hoping to cash in on the booming market for Bacon, an artist best known for his contorted and often horrific human forms.

In November, 2006, a Bacon painting fetched a then record $15 million (7.6 million pounds), eclipsed by a sale in February, 2007 when a papal portrait was sold for over $27 million. That total was nearly doubled at the Sotheby’s New York sale in May last year.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato