The Francis Bacon estate: Surprise move

The heir to the British painter’s works changes galleries from Marlborough to Tony Shafrazi


In a move that has surprised many on both sides of the Atlantic, Marlborough Fine Art in London has been replaced by Tony Shafrazi Gallery in Wooster St, New York as the sole representatives of the estate of Francis Bacon. “I can confirm that we are representing not only the copyright aspects of Francis Bacon’s work, but also the interests of John Edwards, the sole beneficiary of the estate of Francis Bacon”, Hiroko Onoda, director of the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, told The Art Newspaper. “It has been official since April, but we have been keeping a low profile.”

While the Tony Shafrazi Gallery will now handle the Bacon estate worldwide, it will be operating in close association with Gerard Faggionato, director of Faggionato Fine Arts, London, who has a long history of dealing in the work of Francis Bacon. “Gerard Faggionato will be operating with us in Europe”, stated Ms Onoda, “He has a great knowledge of Bacon’s work; he is very well versed and we will be relying on his expertise. However, Shafrazi Gallery are representing the estate.”

When Francis Bacon died from a heart attack on 28 April 1992, he left his entire estate, valued at the time at just under £11 million but now estimated at considerably more, to his long-time companion and frequent model John Edwards. The circumstances surrounding Mr Edwards’ decision to transfer the Bacon estate from Marlborough Fine Art to Tony Shafrazi Gallery remain shrouded in secrecy. Certainly, the style of the two galleries could not be more different. The Marlborough Gallery had represented Francis Bacon since 1958 and had overseen his rise to international stardom, whereas the Tony Shafrazi Gallery made its name in the 1980s, with a stable of graffiti artists which included Kenny Sharf and Keith Haring. More controversially, Tony Shafrazi attracted attention a decade earlier when, in 1973, he spray-canned “Lies.All.Kill.” onto the surface of Picasso’s “Gue-rnica”.

Plans are now afoot for a major exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery of works from the estate of Francis Bacon. These, according to sources who wished to remain anonymous, will include many pieces dating from the late 1940s up until his death which have never before been publicly seen, published or exhibited. “We do plan to have an exhibition shortly—I can’t disclose any dates but it will be in the near future”, Ms Onoda says. “I believe it will include works from the estate but we are still making the selections.” At the time of going to press no one from Marlborough Fine Art was prepared to comment.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Surprise Move'