Sotheby’s – Record Online Auction: Francis Bacon’s Triptych for $ 84.6 million


Monday night, 2:27 a.m .: Oliver Barker, star auctioneer at Sotheby’s, stands isolated in front of six large screens in a London studio. It is the last seconds before the hammer falls. “Triptych, inspired by the Oresty of Aeschylus”, a two-meter-high, three-part painting by the British Francis Bacon, is currently up for auction. It will the most expensive painting that has ever been auctioned in such an online live auction.
Barker’s colleagues are in the British capital, New York and Hong Kong at the same time and accept bids from all over the world. Traders, collectors and other interested parties who otherwise tremble in Sotheby’s auction room in Manhattan are banished to virtual space due to the corona virus. Despite the sterile backdrop, Barker manages to maintain the tension:

“… For the second …” The audience followed the auction in a live stream, prospective customers could bid in a very old-fashioned manner in advance by letter. Current bids are obtained by phone, others bid with a click on internet platforms. Probably the one who now has a stable network connection. For more than seven minutes, a prospect led by Sotheby’s employees in New York and a Chinese Internet provider have been fighting for the highest bid. Last warning: “… for the third … sold!” The triptych changes hands over the phone for $ 74 million – plus the buyer’s fee of more than $ 10.5 million.

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