A three-panel masterpiece by Francis Bacon broke a record for contemporary art auctions Wednesday, selling for more than $86 million after three bidders vied for it, a spokeswoman for the auction house said.

The $86,281,000 price for "Triptych, 1976" also set an auction record for the British artist, Sotheby's spokeswoman Lauren Gioia said.

She said the sale also broke auction records for work by pop artist Robert Rauschenberg, who died Monday at 82. His 1963 painting "Overdrive" sold for some $14.6 million, Gioia said.

Both buyers were anonymous, and the prices included the auction house's commission, known as a buyer's premium.

The bidding for "Triptych, 1976" rocketed past an estimate of $70 million for the painting, which is full of symbolism and draws on ancient Greek mythology.

The price also bested the $72.8 million auction record for contemporary art, set when Mark Rothko's "White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)" sold at Sotheby's in May 2007.

Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow" was expected to fetch $30 million to $40 million at Wednesday's auction. But it was not sold after bidding fell short of the seller's minimum price, Gioia said. Rothko died in 1970.

Bacon, who died in 1992 at 82, is considered one of Britain's most important 20th century artists. The previous auction record for a Bacon work was $52.7 million, for his "Study for Innocent X, 1952," sold at Sotheby's last May.

The triptych that sold Wednesday has been in the same owner's collection for more than 30 years, according to Sotheby's.

It was purchased in 1977 from the Galerie Claude Bernard in Paris. The Tate Gallery in London and the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris also have shown it.

Another Bacon triptych, "Studies for Self Portrait," sold for $28 million at Christie's on Tuesday night.