ONE section of Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus. — WWW.FRANCIS-BACON.COM

FRANCIS BACON’S Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus fetched $84.6 million at Sotheby’s on Monday, giving the high-end art market a boost after a months-long slump caused by the pandemic.

Estimated at $60 million to $80 million, the 1981 trio of paintings was the top offering at the marquee sales of contemporary, Impressionist and modern art sales. Sotheby’s guaranteed the work, consigned by the foundation of Norwegian businessman Hans Rasmus Astrup, who has displayed it at his private museum in Oslo since 1993. Proceeds from the sale will expand and diversify the museum collection, Sotheby’s said.

The global art market has been in a rut since March. Sotheby’s $326-million sales low estimate for the auctions is half of last year’s target. The sales are crucial in setting a new bar for investment-grade works, dealers said. Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips typically hold their marquee semi-annual sales in May and November. The May 2020 sales were postponed.

Sotheby’s auctioneer was in London, taking bids on screen from colleagues around the globe as clients participated online or by phone. Until now, the most expensive work sold online at Sotheby’s was Ivan Aivazovsky’s seascape, at 2.3 million pounds ($2.8 million) on June 2. The priciest item purchased by an online bidder was a pair of diamond earrings, at $6 million, in 2016.

On Monday, an online bidder doggedly competed for the Bacon work up to $73.1 million. It was sold to the client of Gregoire Billault, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in New York. — Bloomberg