Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" is considered by many to be his defining work. It's a triptych that was completed in 1969, and depicts Bacon's friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud.
The painting sold at Christie's for $142.4 million Tuesday night — the highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction.
Edvard Munch's "The Scream" was sold in May 2012 at Sotheby's for $120 million and previously held the record for highest price ever achieved at auction.
The highest price ever paid for a piece of art is believed to be more than $250 million, which Qatar's royal family paid in a private sale for Paul Cézanne's "The Card Players" in 2011.
Tuesday's sale nearly doubled Bacon's previous record at auction set at Sotheby's in 2008, when a 1976 Bacon triptych sold for $86 million to the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
Bacon always thought of "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" as one artwork, but in the 1970s the three panels were separated. A collector in Rome, who owned the right panel, spent 20 years trying to reunite the triptych. In the 1980s he bought the middle panel from a Paris dealer and then bought the final panel from a collector in Japan.
The artists painted another full-length triptych of Freud in 1966, but its location is unknown.
Christie's also auctioned other works Tuesday that fetched high price tags including an Andy Warhol "Coca-Cola," which sold for $57.3 million; Jeff Koons' "Balloon Dog (Orange)," which was auctioned for $58.4 million; Mark Rothko's "Untitled (No. 11)," which earned $46 million; and Roy Lichtenstein's "Seductive Girl," which went for $31.5 million.