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Francis Bacon

Bacon sizzles in New York as newly discovered works go on display at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery

The exhibition notably shuns the Marlborough gallery, which represented the artist throughout his life

Over the past few months, we have reported on the recently rediscovered works by Francis Bacon (1909-1992), which are now on view in Manhattan’s Tony Shafrazi Gallery (The Art Newspaper, No. 84, September 1998 pp. 1 and 6 and No. 85, October 1998, p. 56). The seventeen paintings are the property of John Edwards, Bacon’s companion and the sole heir to the estate of the Irish-born artist famous for his images of contorted figures and heads, screaming from their invisible cages. Ten of the works are of the 1950s, one is of the 1960s and the rest are late works of the 1980s and 90s. David Sylvester, the English art historian and Bacon expert said of them, “Two are absolute masterpieces and most of the rest are very interesting.” However questions remain regarding the unusual circumstances of the works’ rediscovery—some paintings are unfinished, some were found rolled up in his London studio and others were left at a framer where Bacon used to store paintings—and whether or not these are works which Bacon intended to sell. Bacon was not a prolific artist and work usually left his studio the moment it was completed. Some of these works were thought to have been discarded by the artist, who notoriously destroyed his own work. A lot of money is riding on the answers to these questions: paintings by Bacon have fetched as much as $6 million at auction and Bacon experts estimate that the estate could be worth $100 million. Mr Edwards’s choice of the Shafrazi Gallery over the Marlborough Gallery, which represented Bacon from 1958 until his death and still holds the largest collection of his works in private hands, has also caused surprise in the contemporary art world. The reasons for this switch remain shrouded in secrecy. The Bacon estate is represented in London by Gerard Faggionato, Shafrazi’s European partner. Few of the works in this show are for sale; instead the dealers view this exhibition as a way to give Bacon more exposure in the US, where he has never been as popular as he is in Europe.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 87 December 1998