In the 1989 Tim Burton film "Batman," there is a famous scene where the Joker and his gang break into an art museum and vandalize masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Degas, and Vermeer. But, just as one of his henchmen is about to slash a Francis Bacon canvas, the Joker steps in to stop him, saying, "I kind of like this one."

This scene is testament to two things: first Bacon's status as a great and acknowledged painter on a par with those others, and, second, the ugliness and brutality of his work, at least in the conventional sense, that endears it to a psychopath like the Joker.

It is interesting, therefore, to see what Tokyo will make of the first retrospective of Bacon since his death in 1992 to be held not only in Japan but also in Asia — especially as Tokyo is a city that prefers its art on the pretty side.