Francis Bacon Self-Portrait expected to bring $24m at Sotheby's

Sotheby's has announced that its Contemporary Art Evening Sale - the first major auction in the category this year - will be highlighted by Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Self Portrait.

The piece, a triptych which forms part of a series of 11 such works, will sell with a £10m-15m ($16-24m) estimate on February 12 in New York. It has been consigned to auction from the collection of a distinguished European collector.

Francis Bacon Three Studies For Self-Portrait Sotheby's
The death of Bacon's closest friend had a profound impact on his work

Sotheby's chairman of contemporary art Europe, Cheyenne Westphal, commented on the contemporary art market: "The marketplace and demand for contemporary art has never been stronger or more international - of the top 20 prices achieved by Sotheby's last year, more than half were post-war and contemporary masterworks."

The Bacon piece leads a line-up of what Sotheby's describes as "powerful masterworks of extraordinary 'wall power' by blue-chip artists". Self-portraiture played an important role in Bacon's career, with the death of his closest friend, George Dyer, launching a series of "searing self-analyses" that were executed throughout the remainder of his life.

Painted in 1980, the triptych is one such work, a haunting trio of portraits that are almost one to one scale. Powerfully executed, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait "truly counts as a masterpiece of Bacon's intimately scaled triptychs", according to Sotheby's.

Bacon's Study for Self-Portrait - featuring the artist's head on Lucien Freud's body - sold for £19.2m in June 2012. The current world record for his work was set at $86.3m in 2008, after Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich successfully outbid contenders for Bacon's Triptych 1976.

Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild
Richter became the world's most valuable living artist in 2012, with thanks to Eric Clapton

Also featuring is Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (769-1), which is expected to bring £7.5-9.5m ($12m-15m). Richter is currently the world's most valuable living artist after another piece from his Abstraktes Bild series, from the collection of Eric Clapton, sold for $34.2m in October - a 77.6% increase on estimate.

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