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Phillips’ Inaugural London Auction: High Theater and Some Stellar Prices

Phillips de Pury & Company selected the Frieze Art Fair week (Oct. 12-15) to open its London operation with a sale of contemporary art and design on Oct. 14, in a converted 40,000- square-foot post office.

LONDON—Phillips de Pury & Company selected the Frieze Art Fair week (Oct. 12-15) to open its London operation with a sale of contemporary art and design on Oct. 14, in a converted 40,000- square-foot post office.

Best described as shabby-chic, the building fits with Phillips’ desire to cater to a fashion-conscious European clientele. The company is no longer recognizable as the former Phillips, Son & Neale, whose business and properties were acquired by Bonhams five years ago, resulting in substantiallayoffs at the time. However, de Pury used the opening to celebrate the 210th anniversary of the company whose name alone he has kept.

The sale became a party, and the party became a rave when ’80s electro-pop band, The Human League, put on a live performance.

More than 1,500 people were on hand as de Pury battled his way through 71 lots in two hours. At the end all but three had sold. A total of £8.6 million ($15.8 million), just above the £8.3 million high estimate, was raised, along with 15 records (albeit that for some artists, it was their first outing at auction).
$1.1M Uklanski Work Leads

The top price was a record £568,000, or $1.1 million (estimate: £250,000/350,000), paid for a rare, complete edition of Piotr Uklanski’s The Nazis, 1998, by dealer Jeffrey Deitch, bidding against Larry Gagosian. This was followed by a record £478,400, or $889,800 (estimate: £250,000/350,000), given by a phone bidder, against an agent for Charles Saatchi in the room, for Fang Lijun’s multiple-figured painting 2002.

The rest of the top 10 lots had all been guaranteed. Presumably to boost the impact of the sale, Phillips had guaranteed 17 lots with a combined low estimate of £2.8 million. According to trade sources, some, like the record-breaking £377,600 ($702,336) video Eternal Return, 2000, by Bill Viola, had come from the collection of New York hedge-fund manager Adam Sender. Others had come from German collector Harald Falkenberg.

Although five works sold below their estimates, the combined return was just above £3 million ($5.6 million). Among the other guaranteed lots were Elizabeth Peyton’s portrait Princes William and Harry, 1999, which went to a phone bidder, against New York consultant Sandy Heller in the room, for £433,600, or $806,500 (estimate: £300,000/400,000); Richard Prince’s So What Else is New, 1988, which fell to London dealer Nicolai Frahm for £433,600, or $806,500 (estimate: £300,000/400,000); and Mike Kelley’s TheSun Collapses . . ., 1998, which was acquired by German publisher Benedikt Taschen for £254,400, or $473,184 (estimate: £200,000/300,000).

Other buyers in the room: London collectors Fatima and Eskandar Maleki, who bought Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s 2001 multimedia light sculpture $ for £187,200, or $348,200 (estimate: £150,000/200,000); Madrid consultant Edmund Peel, who won Thomas Struth’s Paradise I . . ., 1998, for £50,400, or $93,744 (estimate: £25,000/35,000); London dealer Thomas Dane, who bought Albert Oehlen’s early painting Leuchter, 1984, for £96,000, or $178,560 (estimate: £50,000/70,000); Heinrich zu Hohenlohe, of Dickinson Roundell associates, who paid a record £69,600, or $129,400 (estimate: £35,000/45,000), for Wim Delvoye’s St. Stephanus III, 1989-92; U.S. dealer Stefano Basilico, who took Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Elizabeth II, 1999, for £72,000, or $133,920 (estimate: £20,000/30,000); and Miami collectors Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, who obtained both Martin Kippenberger’s latex painting M.K.N.Y., 1990, for £78,000, or $145,000 (estimate: £50,000/70,000), and a 1990 Günther Förg painting on lead, Untitled, for £66,000, or$122,760 (estimate: £10,000/15,000).

Many members of de Pury’s star-studded advisory board were in attendance, including ex-punk- rocker Malcolm McLaren, Francesca von Habsburg and Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis.

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