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The painting, which depicts the artist and his partner, George Dyer, writing at a table, was included in a 1977 Paris exhibition alongside “Triptych,” a 1976 work by the artist that sold for $86.2 million at Sotheby’s in 2008. It held the record for any contemporary artwork at auction until Tuesday night when Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” claimed that title when it sold at Christie’s for $86.8 million.

“The works by Ai Weiwei and Francis Bacon are hot for different reasons,” said Lisa Fischman, director of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. “One is electrified by the artist’s political provocations, and the other by the frisson of sexual mystery.”