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Francis Bacon painting emerges from vault in Iran

Francis Bacon painting emerges from vault in Iran

A major Francis Bacon painting that has lain hidden in the vaults of an Iranian museum for three decades went on display in London for the first time Friday. The 1968 triptych Two Figures Lying on a Bed With Attendants shows two naked men lying on a bed in the central panel. On one side they are being watched by a naked man in a chair with a flapping bird on the other by a monkey and seated man wearing a suit. The triptych is on loan from Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art to the Tate Britain gallery in central London, where it will be shown with other Bacon works for six months. It is one of scores of original paintings and sculptures by masters such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, and Auguste Renoir that were ordered collected for the state of Iran by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his wife, Farah Diba, during the oil boom of the 1970s. They were locked away at the Museum of Contemporary Art after the shah was overthrown in 1979. For years the collection remained in the museum's basement vaults. Those restrictions are now being relaxed, and the Tate said Friday that Bacon's explicit Two Figures painting will be shown to the Iranian public for the first time when it returns to Tehran. Bacon was born in Dublin and moved to London as a teenager. The flamboyantly gay, hard-drinking Bacon was heavily influenced at first by Picasso then by the surrealist movement that flourished in Germany and France after the First World War. By the time he died in Madrid in 1992 at the age of 82, Bacon was considered a major British artist of the 20th century, and his paintings have been exhibited around the world. Two Figures Lying on a Bed With Attendants was last seen in Europe in 1972 at an exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany. A decade ago, during a major Bacon retrospective at the Tate, its whereabouts were listed as unknown. The Iranian museum also includes works by Kandinsky, Monet, Pissarro, Braque, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pollock, and pop art icon Andy Warhol, some of which also have been loaned to museums in Europe since the late 1990s.

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