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Phillips: A Very Successful Auction

Phillips de Pury & Company came close to its high estimate, selling 61 of 68 lots for $23.6 million in its Part One contemporary art auction on May 12, just short of its highest sale total to date. The sale, which focused as usual on the art of the 1980s and ’90s, blew hot and cold

NEW YORK—Phillips de Pury & Company came close to its high estimate, selling 61 of 68 lots for $23.6 million in its Part One contemporary art auction on May 12, just short of its highest sale total to date.

The sale, which focused as usual on the art of the 1980s and ’90s, blew hot and cold or, at least, lukewarm in parts. It confirmed, for instance, that prices for two of the market’s favorites, Marlene Dumas and Maurizio Cattelan, were on hold. Both of them, having experienced the bought-in sensation at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, saw two paintings and three sculptures sold within or even below estimates. The Dumas oil-on-canvas Cleaning the Pole, 2000, sold at a low estimate $912,000, including premium, while her bondage scene Cracking the Whip, 2000, went for a mid- estimate $1.1 million to Chicago collector Stefan Edlis. Cattelan’s stainless-steel lift Untitled, 2001, fell on a single bid below estimate for $632,000, while 16 of his taxidermic pigeons, Turisti, 1997, sold mid-estimate for $576,000—slightly less per pigeon than what seven of them had sold for in London in February (see ANL, 3/1/05).

Prices for editioned work by Matthew Barney and Jeff Koons failed to measure up to previous highs. Envelopa, 1993, a photo triptych by Barney, had made $198,400 at Sotheby’s last November, but now brought $144,000. Yorkshire terriers, 1991, by Koons, had brought $847,500 at Christie’s in November, but now sold for $688,000.

Prices for Damien Hirst, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger and Richard Prince, however, continue to rise. Tailing off a good week for Kippenberger, a large untitled painting from 1991 by the German artist sold for a record $1 million (estimate: $600,000/800,000). A set of Prince photographs—Spiritual America (Two), 1987-88, unsold in 1997 when the estimate was just $15,000/20,000—now fetched $198,000 (estimate: $80,000/120,000) from art adviser Todd Levin. An editioned print from his “Fashion” series, 1982-84, went to real estate agent Terry Lis, after a bidding battle with London’s Haunch of Venison gallery, for $408,000 (estimate; $150,000/200,000)—more than a larger, unique print of the same image fetched in November. Lis also fought off competition from collector Peter Brant to acquire A Nurse Involved, 2002, a painting by Prince that would have cost less than $100,000 at Barbara Gladstone Gallery when first shown. The price—a record $1 million (estimate: $200,000/300,000). Brant was able, however, to pick up a 1987 photo from Prince’s “Cowboys” series for $296,000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000).

Three works by Kelley all went over estimates. One of several images being sold by French dealer Marc Blondeau, Pigtail Road & Escape Route, a 1984 acrylic, was underbid by Larry Gagosian before going for $240,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000). A small stuffed animal sculpture, Three-Part Yarn Stack, 1990, was acquired by Brant for $180,000 (estimate: $80,000/120,000). And Memory Ware Flat #34, 2003, came to close to a record, selling for $385,600 (estimate: $150,000/200,000), more than a larger work from the same series fetched last November.

Damien Hirst’s Out of Sight, Out of Mind, 1991, two cows’ heads in formaldehyde, had been bought five years ago by the Swiss-based Pisces Trust for a record $552,500 at Phillips when it was owned by Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH). This time at auction it sold for $800,000 (estimate: $600,000/800,000). Also showing a markup for Hirst was Cancer Chronicles (Malaria), 2002, bought by Charles Saatchi from White Cube in 2003 when it was priced at $290,000, and now sold for $419,200.

Saatchi made bigger profits with two other sales. Chris Ofili’s Afrodizzia, 1996, which would have cost him around $15,000, fell for a record $1 million (estimate: $500,000/700,000) to Levin. And Ron Mueck’s Pinocchio, 1996, bought by Saatchi for around $5,000, sold for a record $531,200 (estimate: $500,000/700,000). The work had previously been on offer at Gagosian Gallery for $1 million.

Painters hot in the 1980s and coming back into style were David Salle and Jörg Immendorf. Salle’s Lampwick’s Dilemma, 1989, from the Pisces Trust collection, sold for a punchy $441,600 (estimate: $250,000/350,000) to Jeffrey Deitch—the best price for Salle since 1989. Immendorf’s Awakening the Cock, 1996, sold for $296,000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000) to Gallery Michael Werner, beating a 15-year-old auction record for the artist.

Other buyers and big prices: Thea Westreich paid record prices for a set of 21 photographs by John Bock ($84,000), against an estimate of $20,000/30,000; and for a large 2000 silkscreen-on-canvas picture by Jorge Pardo ($156,000), with an estimate of $60,000/80,000.

Chelsea dealers Goff + Rosenthal spent a record $374,400 (estimate: $300,000/400,000) for Yoshitomo Nara’s fiberglass Your Dog, 2002. Amalia Dayan of the new gallery Bortalomi and Dayan, paid a record $273,600 (estimate: $60/80,000) for Ugo Rondinone’s large drawing-on-canvas No.69, 1996. Saatchi paid a record $180,000 (estimate: $200,000/300,000) for Kai Althoff’s small mixed media painting Winter, 2002. Deitch paid a record $168,000 (estimate: $50,000/70,000) for Piotr Uklanski’s controversial set of photographs The Nazis, 1998.

Notable bought-in lots included: Jenny Saville’s 1991 Self Portrait, from the Blondeau consignment (estimate: $200,000/300,000); and Andy Warhol’s Michael Jackson, 1984 (estimate: $250,000/350,000).

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