Tracing the Declining Market for Francis Bacon, Whose Auction Sales Have Plummeted Over 80 Percent Since 2014

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The Royal Academy’s new Francis Bacon exhibition in London is the converse of the city. Titled “Man and Beast,” the clearly show houses in on the Modernist painter’s romance with animals—a refreshing curatorial framework for an artist so oft affiliated with the human figure.

Much less than a ten years back, Bacon’s current market was soaring—but the artist has recently seen a extra mellow general performance at auction. The R.A. demonstrate, featuring uncooked, distorted imagery of bullfights and chimeric abstractions that expose how interchangeable people and animals genuinely are, has reignited discussion about his function, when curators’ final decision to problem a cause warning has sparked some controversy in the push.

The Irish-born Modernist evidently nonetheless has the ability to provoke powerful feelings—so we delved into Artnet’s Price tag Databases to come across out whether his sector commands similar conviction. 

The Context

Auction file: $142.4 million at Christie’s New York in November 2013

Bacon’s Efficiency in 2021

Plenty marketed: 77
Bought in: 15
Offer-by means of level: 84 percent
Average sale price tag: $537,299
Mean estimate: $539,380
Complete gross sales: $41.4 million
Best portray price tag: $33 million
Least expensive portray rate: $6.9 million
Cheapest over-all rate: $529 (for an offset lithograph poster for a 1985 demonstrate at Marlborough Gallery)

© 2022 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

© 2022 Artnet Throughout the world Corporation.

 

The Appraisal

  1. Crash Landing. Bacon’s secondary current market activity ramped up in 2007 and 2008—and then crashed, alongside with the rest of the artwork current market, in 2009. The artist’s complete sales plummeted 99 p.c that 12 months, from $228.2 million to a paltry $2.6 million. In the succeeding 4 several years, the art marketplace at massive progressively recovered from the Fantastic Recession, and Bacon’s gross sales hit their apex in 2014, totaling $306 million.
  2. Pandemic Overconfidence. Pursuing the 2014 peak, Bacon ongoing to perform solidly at auction, with sales fluctuating mainly dependent on provide. Bucking mid-pandemic anticipations, Bacon’s current market did effectively in 2020, buoyed by the sale of his prime triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981). The get the job done, which fetched $84.6 million, was the year’s most highly-priced at auction, nevertheless it still lagged far at the rear of his $142.4 million file. It was only exposed two months in the past, by Artnet’s Katya Kazakina, that the customer was Sotheby’s proprietor Patrick Drahi. 
  3. Dwindling Interest. In 2021, just 3,587 users searched Artnet’s Price tag Databases for Bacon, with the most interest concentrated in the drop, around the time of New York’s marquee gross sales. Engagement was much lessen than that for the last two artists viewed as in this column: René Magritte noticed 6,288 buyers seeking, and Yayoi Kusama got 17,778. 
  4. Disappointing Efficiency. Bacon’s marketplace had a a lot less-than-stellar efficiency in 2021. While other artists’ markets had been recovering from lockdown, Bacon’s complete product sales dropped 61 % from 2020, even although the amount of operates presented remained consistent. Bacon’s best cost at auction last year—$33 million for a new-to-marketplace “Pope” perform from 1958 at Phillips—fell $2 million shorter of its lower estimate. All explained to, his industry is down a staggering 87 per cent from its 2014 peak. 
  5. What is in the Woodwork? Bacon has witnessed offer spike when the broader sector is flush (a lot more than 10 paintings were being provided on a yearly basis in the course of the market’s prior peaks in 2007–8 and 2014–5). But it continues to be to be seen irrespective of whether the present-day boom will coax a lot more precious paintings out of the woodwork—and how they will be obtained.

The Base Line

Bacon’s slumping auction effectiveness above the past five many years suggests that sector preferences may well have moved on from the painter’s macho, ghoulish figurative do the job. A person could argue that the figures replicate the lack of provide of top rated-tier trophy lots—33 paintings have been supplied above the previous 5 many years at a 90 p.c market-by rate, in comparison to an 80 p.c sell-by charge across his whole market—but that doesn’t describe absent the disappointing outcome for a fresh new-to-market place “Pope” previous yr.

Absolutely everyone wishes to produce an obituary for Modernist and Impressionist art,” Phillips’s Robert Manley said following the “Pope” sale, but insisted tastes experienced not “changed” but rather “expanded.” The Royal Academy’s Bacon clearly show may well introduce the artist to new audiences (and inspire extra painting consignments). But with the lurking likelihood that offer may have happy demand from customers, we wouldn’t retire the funeral blacks just however.

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