Portland Art Museum (image via Flickr user Mr_Stein)

Portland Art Museum (image via Flickr user Mr_Stein)

Everyone’s favorite triptych will be taking a trip to Portland, Oregon, the New York Times has reported. Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” (1969), which set the world auction record at $142 million last month, has been loaned to the Portland Art Museum (PAM) by its anonymous buyer, where it will be on view starting this Saturday, December 21, through March 30, 2014. Though the PAM press release thanked the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, that mention was in reference to a public exhibitions fund donated by Allen, and a spokesman for the foundation denied that the Microsoft co-founder had bought the Bacon.

Who could it be? The Museum has noted that the painting’s owner is male, West-coast based, and has loaned artworks to the museum in the past. A member of the museum’s board? Maybe. Nike CEO and art collector Mark Parker? Don’t bet the farm.

Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” (1969), which sold for $142.4M in November. (original image via christies.com)

At any rate, just like the sale of the artwork itself, the outcome has its detractors. Philip Kennicot at the Washington Post writes:

By celebrating the painting with a specially organized exhibition, the museum aligns itself with the commodification of art and effectively endorses the idea that the price tag is a valid a marker of quality.

Maybe so, but in the age of non-profit neoliberalism, the museum’s fetish for capital is more than just pandering for footfalls, it’s an existential orientation. And one needn’t wander very far afield to take notice. Just look downtown.

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Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

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