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Cy Twombly and Francis Bacon top Christie's $448 million auction in New York
Auctioneer and Global President Jussi Pylkkanen selling Cy Twombly's (1928-2011), Leda and the Swan for $52,887,500. © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

NEW YORK (AFP).- A largely abstract Cy Twombly sold for $52.89 million at Christie's flagship post-war and contemporary art auction in New York on Wednesday, narrowly eclipsing a Francis Bacon triptych of his lover.

The auction house said the evening sale netted a total of $448 million in a week when Christie's and Sotheby's are chasing combined sales of at least $1.1 billion in auctioning off hundreds of pieces of art.

Twombly's "Leda and the Swan," in oil, lead pencil and wax crayon on canvas was produced after the US artist had established himself in Rome and left behind the New York art world.

The subject of a retrospective in Paris last year and the strong price -- narrowly beating the Bacon -- underscores an artist becoming an increasing commercial force despite being far from a household name.

Sotheby's set the Twombly auction record at $70.5 million in 2015.

Bacon's "Three Studies of George Dyer" scrapped past its $50 million estimate after attracting a paucity of bids, closing at a hammer price of $46 million, which rose to $51.77 million with the buyer's premium.

Once owned by author Roald Dahl, the 1963 triptych was the British artist's first portrait of his long-time muse and lover, a handsome petty thief from London's East End.

It has been shown at the Tate Britain and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Otherwise Christie's said Jean-Michel Basquiat's "La Hara" -- a 1981 acrylic and oil-stick of an angry-looking New York police officer -- sold for $35 million shooting past its $22-28 million estimate.

Rising sales are catapulting the US wonderkid of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, who died at 27, into the rostrum of 20th century greats.

The subject of much of his work -- ordeals endured by blacks in America -- is finding renewed resonance in the wake of nationwide US protests since 2014 about the shootings of unarmed black men by police.

A 1982 giant "Untitled" Basquiat is the top lot of the week in New York, valued at more than $60 million which Sotheby's hopes will smash the artist's $57 million record at auction on Thursday.

Christie's post-war and contemporary sales comes after a lackluster Sotheby's sale of $173.8 million in impressionist and modern art on Tuesday. The auction house dramatically withdrew from sale its star lot, an early Schiele masterpiece valued at $30-40 million.

© Agence France-Presse

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May 18, 2017

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