A triptych of paintings by Francis Bacon that depicts his close associate George Dyer brought in 26.7 million pounds (more than $45 million) in London on Monday, the highest selling item in a Sotheby's auction of contemporary art that saw $159.3 million in total sales.
"Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (On Light Ground)" dates from 1964 and depicts its subject from different angles. Sotheby's had estimated that the oil paintings would sell for 15 million to 20 million pounds.
Sotheby's said the work was the subject of a telephone bidding skirmish, which appeared to have helped elevate the selling price above the high-end estimate. The paintings were considered highly coveted because they were created in the early days of Bacon's relationship with Dyer.
The buyer of the triptych was not identified, but the New York Times reported that Helena Newman, the chairwoman of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern art department in Europe, took the winning bid, beating out three other rivals.
Last year, a Bacon triptych of paintings depicting Lucian Freud broke auction records when it sold for $142.4 million at a Christie's auction in London. The buyer was later revealed to be Elaine Wynn.
Monday's auction included a painting depicting a country road by artist Peter Doig that sold for $14.5 million. An Andy Warhol painting, aptly titled "Dollar Sign," sold for $6.8 million.