Bacon, Damien and Freud's Exhibitions in Autumn
Source:Bloomberg Author:Martin Gayford Date: 2008-09-05 Size:
The late Francis Bacon once put it in a phrase, "the brutality of fact." That's the quality that his own work shares with that of Lucian Freud and Damien Hirst: sheer visceral truthfulness, sometimes squalid, sometimes gory.

 

Lucian Freud's painting, "Naked Portrait with Reflection" from 1980, in London, on May 19, 2008.  

What does British art have that makes it special? The late Francis Bacon once put it in a phrase, "the brutality of fact." That's the quality that his own work shares with that of Lucian Freud and Damien Hirst: sheer visceral truthfulness, sometimes squalid, sometimes gory.

Works by all three of those artists have surged in value over the past three years, and they all make appearances of differing kinds on the London exhibition scene this autumn. So, too, do a couple of U.S. postwar heavyweights.

Bacon himself is the subject of a retrospective at Tate Britain (Sept. 11-Jan. 4, 2009), sponsored by Bank of America Corp. This is a centenary tribute: He was born in 1909 and died in 1992 -- not bad for someone with his Champagne habit.

Once upon a time, Bacon was viewed as a provincial eccentric -- an old-fashioned figurative painter in dingy London -- while the mainstream of art history was believed to flow through Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Damien Hirst and Freud are both featured in smaller though intriguing displays. Hirst's "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" (Sotheby's, New Bond St.) is groundbreaking, if not in terms of work -- artistically, he is carrying on as usual -- but in terms of sales.

This is an auction combined with a show of new works, including a pickled unicorn estimated at 2 million pounds ($3.6 million) to 3 million pounds and a Golden Calf at 8 million pounds to 10 million pounds, open to the public from Sept. 5, sales on Sept. 15 and 16. The event invites the question, is Hirst's biggest innovation artistic or financial?

At the Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert Gallery, 38 Bury St., there will be a show of early pictures by Freud (Oct. 9-Dec. 12). This is organized by David Dawson, a Freud assistant, and Catherine Lampert, who was the curator of the recent traveling Freud exhibition in Dublin and other venues.

This will include several paintings seldom or never seen in public before, but not a piece that Lampert searched for only to discover that the sitter had destroyed it because it was seen as unflattering. That was an expensive piece of vanity, with Freud pictures now selling for as much as $33.6 million with fees.

[Editor] Mark Lee

    Artintern