$86 million for Bacon sets record

From the Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A three-panel masterpiece by Francis Bacon broke a record for contemporary art auctions, selling for more than $86 million after three bidders vied for it, a spokeswoman for the auction house said.

The $86,281,000 price for "Triptych, 1976" also set an auction record for the British artist, Sotheby's spokeswoman Lauren Gioia said.

She said an auction record also was set for work by Robert Rauschenberg, who died Monday at 82. His 1963 painting "Overdrive" sold for about $14.6 million, Gioia said.

Both buyers on Wednesday were anonymous, and the prices included the auction house's commission, known as a buyer's premium.

The bidding for "Triptych, 1976" rocketed past an estimate of $70 million for the painting, which is full of symbolism and draws on ancient Greek mythology.

The price also bested the $72.8 million auction record for contemporary art, set when Mark Rothko's "White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)" sold at Sotheby's in May 2007.

Bacon, who died in 1992 at 82, is considered one of Britain's most important 20th century artists. The previous auction record for a Bacon work was $52.7 million.

The triptych that sold Wednesday has been in the same owner's collection for more than 30 years, according to Sotheby's.

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