Friday, December 12, 2008


At the end of the 50s, Francis Bacon was a total non-entity in the USA. In 1959 the famous Italian-born art dealer Leo Castelli started to sell his works at prices from $900 to $1500. In May 2008, nightmarish Francis Bacon painting Tryptich 1976 fetched record $86 million.

Triptych, 1976, consists of three panels depicting a headless human form surrounded by three vultures and flanked by two portraits of disfigured human faces.

If Castelli helped to make Bacon the icon the artist became on the Art market he made one considerable mistake : smart Leo did not keep any of the Bacon work for his own collection. He later admitted that it was his major error in a lifetime of art dealing. Did he not believed enough in the future of the Irish-English painter ?

However Castelli made another one and quite as big a mistake : before to represent Bacon he had rejected Andy Warhol in favor of his major artists like Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. He eventually sold Andy Warhol's soup can paintings.

Today Bacon sells for million of dollars and Leo Castelli who died in 1999 became -in spite of those early mistakes- so famous that people used to say that they had acquired a "Castelli" rather than a Johns or one his other gallery artists. Willem De Koonings proclaimed urbi et orbi that Castelli would sell for a fortune an empty can of beer.

No comments: