ASU alumnus sells Francis Bacon triptych

When ASU alumnus Lock Kresler entered the
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, he said he remembered his professor asking his art history
class how many of them thought they would make money after they graduated.
Kresler was the only one who raised his hand.

“If you have the passion, you can do some really great things,” he said.

On Nov. 12, Kresler auctioned off Francis Bacon’sThree Studies of Lucian Freud,” one of the most iconic pieces by Bacon. These series of paintings are a 1969 oil-on-canvas triptych by Bacon, of his friend Lucian Freud.

Kresler moved to London nearly a decade ago with an interest in contemporary art. He began working for Christie’s, a British auction company, where he became director of private sales.

Kresler said London was a very different environment than New York, where he used to work and do appraisals of artwork and other historic pieces.

The triptych sold in the auction was separated into three paintings for nearly 15 years at one point in its history. The triptych had to be reassembled before being put up for auction.

Kresler said obtaining the piece was a very huge victory for Christie’s.

“When I saw it for the first time, I thought it was an absolute masterpiece,” he said. “Freud and Bacon are some of the most world renowned artists.”

The piece sold for $142.4 million at Christie’s in to Acquavella Galleries, breaking a world record. This sale bested Edvard Munch’s, “The Scream,” which sold in May 2012 for more than $20 million.

Kresler said it was a very rare work of art.

“To have one of these come up for auction, it was a rare moment for us,” he said.

ASU alumnus Elliot Schmidt is a friend and colleague of Kresler. He said they belonged to the same fraternity. After graduating from ASU, the two of them stayed in touch. When Schmidt moved to London, the two of them reconnected.

“We would try to catch Arizona State football games in London, which was easier said than done,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said Kresler had always planned to make it in the art world, and when he learned about the sale Kresler made with the Freud piece, he was beyond amazed.

“I think it’s really inspiring,” he said. “If I were a professor at ASU, I would want my students to know about this.”

Xan Serasin, who is a colleague of Kresler, is the director for the department for the evening sales at Christie’s.

Serasin said it was a huge victory for the company when they obtained the piece, because it was highly competitive.

“These triptychs are very rare,” Serasin said. “Everyone in the department decided the best course of action is to put it up for auction since it is such an exceptional painting.”

Serasin said it was important for them to be cautiously optimistic when talking about numbers, but he thought it had the potential to make $120 million.

“There were about six people bidding past $100 million,” he said. “Three people drove it to the final sales price, which was an incredible result, but I can’t say I was surprised.”

Serasin said the subject matter of the piece is interesting because of the relationship between Freud and Bacon.

“Some would say Bacon was infatuated with Freud, and it was a love and respect for one another,” he said. “You really feel that he captures the individual with intensity is inculpable.”

Bacon and Freud were both friends as well as artistic rivals. Several times, the two artists painted each other.

Kresler said he feel privileged to sell such a masterpiece.

“I think it was the masterpiece of masterpieces that we have been privileged to sell,” he said. “I don’t think I will see anything like it for a very long time.”

Reach the reporter at kgrega@asu.edu or follow her on twitter @kelciegrega