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Mixed Results at Phillips Contemporary-Art Auction

“Under the Influence,” Phillips de Pury & Company’s midseason sale of contemporary art on March 9, met with uneven demand from buyers.

NEW YORK—“Under the Influence,” Phillips de Pury & Company’s midseason sale of contemporary art on March 9, met with uneven demand from buyers. Of 195 lots offered, 102, or 52 percent, found buyers. By value, the auction was 62 percent sold, and the $1.6 million total fell far short of the $2.4 million/3.3 million estimate.

The top price at the sale was $146,500, given for the four-part mirrored-acrylic I See a Teddy Roosevelt–Shaped Thing, 2002 (estimate: $80,000/120,000), by Kelley Walker (b. 1969).

Two works by Damien Hirst also figured among the top lots: Happy Head, 2007, a glossy, brightly painted resin skull, sold for $80,500, just clearing the high end of the $60,000/80,000 estimate, and Day by Day, 2003, a glass and stainless steel cabinet lined with pills that was originally shown at White Cube, Hirst’s London gallery, sold for $62,500 (estimate: $50,000/70,000).

Mark Handforth’s Bearded Snake, 2005, a sculpture of painted steel and colored, melted wax candles, sold for $116,500, well over the estimate of $60,000/80,000, and Paterson Ewen’s acrylic on canvas Artesian Well, 1971, sold for $98,500, clearing the $70,000/90,000 estimate.

Several of the top lots sold for prices that fell under their estimates, even with premium taken into account, indicating that reserves were lowered prior to the sale. These works included Thomas Ruff’s ink-jet print Substrat 7 III, 2002, which sold for $56,250 on a $60,000/80,000 estimate, and Ed Ruscha’s Parking Lots, 1967–99, consisting of 30 gelatin silver prints, and in which Phillips had an ownership interest, according to the catalog. Also estimated at $60,000/80,000, the photographs sold for $56,250.

Raymond Pettibon’s No title (And now the . . .), 1987, an ink drawing of a light bulb with text, soared past its $10,000/15,000 estimate to sell for $45,000, and Doug Aitken’s C-print on Plexiglas The Movement, 2000, jumped past the estimate of $15,000/25,000 to sell for $37,500.

Among the unsold lots were a set of four ­etching-and-watercolors by Jake and Dinos Chapman (estimate: $20,000/30,000); Barnaby Furnas’s painting Spare Time, 1999 (estimate: $35,000/45,000); Tony Matelli’s painted-urethane and steel sculpture Sad Skulls, 2003 (estimate: $35,000/45,000); and Sarah Morris’s painting Pools–Monaco [Miami], 2003 (estimate: $40,000/60,000).

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