Francis Bacon

A solution found to Tehran's controversial Bacon triptych

Getting minds out of the gutter - despite Bacon's wishes to be there himself

Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art has come up with an ingenious solution for publishing their risqué Bacon triptych without offending conservative sensibilities. Two figures lying on a bed with attendant has always been one of the most sensitive works in the collection, and it was only briefly put on show last autumn. It had been acquired under the Shah, and for a quarter of a century it was locked away in a basement store (until it was briefly loaned to Tate Britain in 2004). In the museum’s new catalogue, published by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the triptych is spread across a double-page, with the central painting divided on both sides of the gutter of the binding. The effect is that one of the nude males on the bed is on the left page and the other on the right, and what is going on between them cannot be seen unless a reader firmly pushes the binding apart. Hopefully Bacon would have been amused. Speaking in a very different context, he once said to the barman of the Colony Room, “when I’m dead, put me in a plastic bag and throw me in the gutter”—leading to biographer Daniel Farson entitling his book The gilded gutter life of Francis Bacon.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Bacon in the gutter'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 165 January 2006