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Dali, Bacon Triptych Set Records in London Sale at Sotheby’s

The boom in art sales continued unabated at Sotheby’s London auction with a triptych painted by Francis Bacon selling for $37 million– double its top estimate– while a work by Salvador Dali also sold for a record of nearly $20 million.

In all, the sale from a private collection grossed close to $180 million (93.5 million pounds), according to the auction house.

The figure top pre-sale estimates of 39.3 and 55 million pounds and suggested the booming art market of 2010 is still on a roll. The market had contracted sharply in late 2008 and throughout 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Salvador Dali’s “Portrait de Paul Eluard” set a record for the surrealist’s works. It had been valued at 3.5 million to 5 million pounds before the auction, but the eventual price tripled the artist’s auction record set earlier in the week.

But Bacon’s “Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud,” was the star, as more than 10 bidders from four continents vied for the painting. It sold to an anonymous bidder.

Bacon and Freud met toward the end of World War Two and soon became close companions. They were at the vanguard of post-war British painting and, with Ben Nicholson, represented Britain at the 1954 Venice Biennale, according to Reuters.

“This striking painting has everything a collector in the current market is looking for,” said Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s chairman of contemporary art Europe.

“It is an artwork that radiates ‘wall-power’ with its brilliant color and dramatic brushstrokes. It narrates one of the most impressive artistic relationships of the 20th Century between two titans of British art and is desirably fresh to the market having remained in the same collection for almost half a century.”

Pablo Picasso’s “La Lecture” earlier in the week sold for 25.2 million pounds as auction houses hold a series of major sales this month.

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