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Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Bacon judge gives trial go-ahead
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon photographed in 1970
A High Court judge has refused to halt a legal action brought by the estate of Francis Bacon against his former gallery today.

The estate is bringing a suit against Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd and Marlborough International Fine Art (MIFA), based in Liechtenstein.

The gallery contested the action, urging Mr Justice Patten to halt the action - which could be worth as much as 100m - before it reaches the courts, probably in January 2002.

The defendants claimed that the estate's allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and "undue influence" were unfounded, and urged Mr Justice Patten to "strike out" the action before it got to court.

'Mutually beneficial'

Marlborough has said it enjoyed a "frank, close and mutually beneficial" relationship with the artist for 34 years.

Bacon approached the gallery with the request to represent him in 1958, and it exhibited his work exclusively until his death from a heart attack in Spain in 1992, aged 82.

The estate says it is seeking a "proper accounting from Marlborough, so as to be able to establish that there was a fair balance struck between the interests of the gallery and Bacon".

Studies of the Human Body by Francis Bacon
Detail from Bacon's Studies of the Human Body, recently sold for 6m at auction
More specifically, Bacon's estate believes Marlborough International is only entitled to a third of the total value of Bacon's work.

It is currently believed to own around 70%.

High value

Bacon's work is highly valued. In February of this year, three paintings of his partner John Edwards were sold for 3m.

On 9 May a new record for his work was set when his 1977 triptych, Studies of the Human Body, was sold at auction for 6m.

Marlborough had paid Bacon 70,000 for the work in 1983.

The judge gave his ruling after earlier preliminary proceedings to organise the timetable of the case.

On Monday, further court sessions will take place to determine the start of the trial proper, the earliest expected date being January 2002.

See also:

09 May 01 | Arts
Bacon sale hits world record
09 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Slices of Bacon sell for 3m
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