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Hip Artworks Define Phillips Contemporary Art Auctions

Phillips, de Pury and Company opened the week with a $7.5 million evening sale of 50 works from the collection of princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, a long-standing client of chairman Simon de Pury, who has just joined Phillips’ advisory board (see ANL, 11/08/05). The reason for the sale, said de Pury, was that

NEW YORK—Phillips, de Pury and Company opened the week with a $7.5 million evening sale of 50 works from the collection of princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, a long-standing client of chairman Simon de Pury, who has just joined Phillips’ advisory board (see ANL, 11/08/05). The reason for the sale, said de Pury, was that the princess was clearing out her castle and getting into something new.

The auction was a sellout, but prices remained rational. Most of the works had been bought soon after being made, some quite recently. The top lot, Paul McCarthy’s painted-bronze sculpture Santa Long Neck, which fetched a record $856,000 (estimate: $500,000/700,000), was dated 2004; and another top lot, Anselm Kiefer’s book sculpture XXI Claudia Quinta, which sold over-estimate for $340,800 to dealer James Cohan, was dated just this year—raising questions about whether some works had been bought for the sale.

A work the princess bought long after it was made was Jeff Koons’ Yorkshire Terriers, 1991; making $903,000 at Christie’s in 2004, it fell now for $632,000, above its low $600,000 estimate.

One work to excite competition was Kenny Scharf’s The Days of Our Lives, 1984, which went to Larry Gagosian for a record, triple-estimate $180,000. Another was a Richard Prince joke painting, Untitled (A Man Walks into a Doctor’s Office), 1988, which took $475,200 (estimate: $250,000/350,000) from the Kukje Gallery, Seoul, bidding against Stellan Holm. Two lots later Prince’s 1988 Why Are You Crying? was acquired by art adviser Todd Levin, bidding against Gagosian, for a mid-estimate $296,000. Kukje Gallery also bought a 1983 embroidered-tapestry map of the world by Alighiero Boetti for a top-estimate $352,000.

Otherwise de Pury had difficulty keeping the crowd in their seats to the end. While the sale promised some glamor in the provenance, it paled in comparison with the Part Two sales at Sotheby’s ($26.1 million) and Christie’s ($54.6 million) that preceded it. After the success of these sales, de Pury then found his major Part One sale on Nov. 10 an uphill battle for most of the evening.

Kusama Leads at Various-Owner Sale

At Phillips’s various-owner sale on Nov. 10, there was competition at the upper level for works such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets, sold for $766,400 (estimate: $200,000/300,000); and for Richard Prince’s joke painting He Ain’t Here Yet, 1988, which fell to collector Peter Brant for a double-estimate $587,200. But the eight other top lots were sold at or below the low estimates. Jeff Koons’ gilded mirror sculpture, Wishing Well, 1988, offered by Anthony d’Offay, doubled the price of another example three years ago but just scraped by on the low estimate at $1 million. And Damien Hirst’s fish-tank sculpture, Love Lost, 1999, from the Charles Saatchi collection, attracted little bidding and sold on its low estimate for $800,000. Gagosian had already tried unsuccessfully to sell the sculpture for Saatchi, presumably for more, shipping it between London and New York.

However 69 of the 73 lots realized a premium-inclusive $22.9 million—right within the presale estimate—and several records for younger-generation artists were set. The highest of these were the $452,800 given by Brant for Mike Kelley’s Memory Ware Flat No.2, 2000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000); and the same price paid by a phone bidder for Neo Rauch’s Grotte, 2004 (estimate: $300,000/400,000), against the artist’s New York dealer David Zwirner. Although many clients are said to be on a waiting list for Rauch, only two bidders competed for this work.

Among the more significant record prices also set were the $144,000 paid for Paul Pfeiffer’s video The Long Count, 2000; the $43,200 given for Francesco Vezzoli’s The Devil is a Woman, 2002 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); and the $33,600 paid for Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s Dog Bites Series of eight photographs, 1992-97 (estimate: $20,0000/30,000).

Luhring Augustine bought Paul McCarthy’s Seven Masks, 1994, a set of seven photographs of masks, for $192,000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000). Zwirner bought two paintings by Luc Tuymans—Mirror III, 1992, for $168,000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000); and Waiting, 1990, for $216,000 (estimate: $200,000/300,000). Sean Kelly acquired an early, untitled Bruce Nauman fiberglass sculpture for $180,000 (estimate: $180,000/250,000). And Helly Nahmad bought Hirst’s cigarette-stub cabinet After Stubbs, 1993, below estimate for $654,400.

Gagosian, sharing a paddle with Alberto Mugrabi, bought Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes, 1982, below estimate for $273,600, as well as two works by Tom Friedman. Bidding against Dominique Levy of L&M Arts, Gagosian won Friedman’s kaleidoscopic drawing of Mickey Mouse, Untitled, 1995, for $318,400 (estimate: $40,000/60,000), and his plastic straws sculpture Untitled, 2004, for $216,000 (estimate: $200,000/300,000).

Not to be left out of the action, de Pury included Christopher Wool’s Run Down Run, 2003, from his own collection in the sale. Acquired by de Pury for a figure between $75,000/95,000, it fetched $296,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000) from dealer Patricia Marshall.

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