Art curator mum on owner of masterpiece coming to Portland

UPDATE: The New York Times reported Jan. 15 that the mystery buyer is Elaine Wynn, a co-founder of Wynn Casino Empire.

Original story:

PORTLAND, Ore. - This is a big deal for the Portland Art Museum, with a little bit of mystery.

This Saturday, the museum will be the first and, possibly only site, to display a recently purchased $143 million artwork at auction. The person who bought the famous "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" by Francis Bacon, is not known. One of the only people who knows the buyer's identity is the same person who orchestrated getting the artwork here in Portland.

Chief Curator Bruce Guenther told KATU's Emily Sinovic, "(the buyer) is a very generous supporter of the museum who lives at a distance from us but wants to share it with the Portland community. They liked the idea of having the painting as part of this series and in Portland. They knew the museum, they'd loaned to our museum before."

Guenther said it was a bit of a shock to the rest of the art community across the country when everyone learned where the paintings would be displayed.

So why Portland?

Guenther said the buyer was "delighted to lend it to us because they respect the program and the museum. They thought we would be a wonderful venue. We have a community that's engaged in art, a community that is curious but also at the end of the rainbow, if you will. We don't get to see a lot of Francis Bacon."

The Portland Art Museum provided the following background on the significance of the Bacon and the artwork:

Among the most significant figurative painters of the 20th century, Bacon (British, 1909-1992) gave form to the emotional and psychological landscape of the modern era. Both acclaimed and reviled during his lifetime, the Dublin-born Bacon touched the raw nerve of the post-war era in his art-historically referenced paintings and existentially wrought portraits.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) is considered to be among his finest portraits for its aesthetic resolution and insightful rendering of fellow artist Lucian Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Bacon and Freud were close friends and regular companions in post-war London. Their friendship provided an aesthetic sounding board for their exploration of figural expressionismpainting each other on numerous occasions for more than 50 years. Bacon completed more than a dozen different portraits of Freud. Three Studies of Lucian Freud is considered an emotional and painterly summation of their friendship.

Bacon's monumental triptych positions the subject inside a crystalline frame that defines an emotional as well as architectural space. Each panel shows a different viewpointleft, front, and right.

The exhibit opens December 21st and runs through the end of March.

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The painting is below: