Bacon’s Triptych: Most Expensive Artwork Sold at Auction

May 15, 2008

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening auction brought in $362 million tonight. (Last night, Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Art evening auction brought in $331.4 million.) This painting, a triptych by the late Francis Bacon sold for $86.3 million to a “private European phone bidder”, breaking the auction record for a contemporary artwork. It is now the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, surpassing Mark Rothko’s “White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose),” (1950) which brought in $72.8 million at Sotheby’s last year.

bacon triptych

As a resident of New York, I’m just wondering whether we get any trickle-down benefits. Does the buyer pay a sales tax, for example? An 8.375% sales tax on this work would amount to more than $7.2 million. In 2006-7, the average teacher’s salary in NY was at $62,647. Those tax dollars could cover almost 115 teachers’ salaries. A private sale has very public effects.