February 13 2012
Lucia van der Post
Francis Bacon needs almost no introduction. The subject of two major retrospective exhibitions at The Tate during his own lifetime and a third six years after he died, his works today fetch multimillions – Roman Abramovich paid a record-breaking $86.23m for his Triptych 1976.
His works are not exactly what you’d call “easy on the eye” (Mrs Thatcher famously referred to Bacon as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”), but they are important and significant, and recently some wonderful new products have been devised that capture the spirit of his work and thinking, making it available to those who don’t have an oligarch’s wallet. Brian Clarke, himself an artist and the sole executor of Francis Bacon’s estate, has gone to great trouble to, as he puts it, “democratise” his works.
“We found that museums and galleries around the world that owned some of his works were coming up with posters, tea towels and suchlike that were frankly downright disrespectful to his work,” says Clarke. “Many showed images back to front and others used terrible colours. We wanted a young audience to appreciate his work and so, with the help of designers in Spain, we have produced a small range of products that we think capture what his work stood for. When we reproduce a painting, for instance, we don’t crop it, we use the whole image. Also, Bacon was very good at aphorisms, and we have used these on many of the products.”
And so the Francis Bacon online shop was launched. The initial product range is quite small, but there are some lovely things. There is, for instance, a beautiful beige and blue cashmere throw (€620), featuring one of the famous aphorisms: “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”
High-gloss black bone-china espresso cups and saucers (pictured, €39.50 for a set of two) sport the artist’s signature on the cup and “I painted to be loved” on the saucer. A cotton beach towel (€42.50) has “I believe in deeply ordered chaos” in large red letters on a green background alongside a silhouette of cans and brushes from Bacon’s studio. Images of paintings are to be found on a silk scarf (pictured, €85), trays (example pictured, from €32) and other household products.
Many of these products are subsidised by the estate (“We wanted to make them as affordable possible,” says Clarke), and there are lots more in the pipeline.