Monday, March 3, 2008


On paper, Francis Bacon probably wouldn't look that promising to wealthy collectors during the 1930s. Never formally trained in art, Bacon began paint before he moved to London in 1929. There, he established himself as an interior designer and as a furniture designer. By 1934 he was organizing group shows and solo shows and soon after destroyed much of his own work. He did not paint intensively again until 1944. After that date his works began to sell very quickly.

2007 was a very good sales year for Bacon's work. In fact, it was the best year ever. In that year seven canvasses sold for more than $10million a piece but on February 6th of 2008 experts claimed the market must be softening when a well-made Bacon triptych sold for just under the estimated value of £25 million and sold for £23.5 million ($46.3 million) instead. They could not have been more wrong.

By 1969, during one of his most prolific periods, Bacon finished Study of Nude with Figure in a Mirror (seen above). On February 27, 2008 this piece went to auction and sold for the auction night high of £19,956,500. This, during a sale at which new auction records were set for six other major artists. According to Alexander Branczik, a contemporary art specialist at Sotheby's "this would never have been sold at auction if it wasn't going to achieve £18m." In other words, the private collector noticed the rising prices of Bacon's work and knew that now was the right time to sell.

Ultimately, this is the point of this posting today. Most people will tell you to collect what you like and enjoy it without a thought to future value. I know from experience that even if collectors claim that this is their motivation, money always plays a part in it. Everyone wants to have good taste and everyone wants to make a wise investment. The only way to do this is to work hard at understanding the market you are interested in. Have the artist's prices risen in the last five years? If you have been looking at their work for a while do you think they show improvement or a development of style? Are they making work that reflects a new and exciting trend or does it look exactly like something that was made 100 years ago? Ultimately, this is what I do as an appraiser. I am constantly evaluating your work in relation to works of similar subject, style, size, condition etc. that have sold in the past. I am making value judements based on my experience looking at art and studying the marketplace. You too, can become an expert if only in a particular style or with a particular artist. Who knows, sooner, rather than later you might be bringing home the Bacon.

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