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The salesroom at Christie's auction house is shown in this handout photo provided by Christie's Images Ltd November 13, 2013 during the auction of Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" in New York November 12, 2013. The oil on canvas triptych, painted in 1969, became the most expensive work of art ever sold when it fetched $142.4 million in one of the biggest auctions in history.
The salesroom at Christie's auction house is shown in this handout photo provided by Christie's Images Ltd November 13, 2013 during the auction of Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" in New York November 12, 2013. The oil on canvas triptych, painted in 1969, became the most expensive work of art ever sold when it fetched $142.4 million in one of the biggest auctions in history.
(Handout/Reuters/Christie’s Ltd.)

The Francis Bacon indicator? Art world soaks up excess cash

Anyone looking for ominous signs of a coming market blowout might want to keep a close eye on the art world, where auctions have been luring wealthy customers from emerging markets and smashing sales records by wide margins.

Investors, collectors and dealers forked out nearly $1.2-billion (U.S.) last week – far above industry expectations – for a handful of illustrious names at the fall contemporary art auctions in New York. A 1969 tryptych by late British artist Francis Bacon fetched the top price – a staggering $142.2-million, way beyond its pre-sale estimate of $85-million. Bidding on an Andy Warhol painting topped out at $105.4-million, another record. And famous living artists aren’t doing badly either. A colourful sculpture by Jeff Koons went for $58.4-million, the largest sum ever paid at auction for work by someone still breathing. “For a moment last night, I thought I was in the commodities market,” one collector told Bloomberg after an auction at Christie’s.