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Phillips Sale Paints Bright Picture for Cutting-Edge Contemporary Art

Phillips de Pury & Company had its best results in more than a year in its sale of contemporary art on Feb. 12, which brought in a total of £6.1 million ($9.6 million) against an estimate of £5 million/7 million.

LONDON—Phillips de Pury & Company had its best results in more than a year in its sale of contemporary art on Feb. 12, which brought in a total of £6.1million ($9.6million) against an estimate of £5million/7million. Of 43 lots on offer, 37, or 86 percent, found buyers.

The auction house did well in finding buyers for all of its top lots. Donald Judd’s Untitled (87-29 Studer), 1987, had been on the market only 19 months before, at Christie’s in New York, where it fetched $1.5million against an estimate of $1.8million/2.5million. In this sale it fetched a loss-making £735,650 ($1.1million) from a phone buyer against an estimate of £600,000/800,000. Two works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled and Cash Crop, both 1984, just hit low-estimate hammer prices, as each sold for £713,250 ($1.1million) with premium against estimates of £600,000/900,000. The best performance came from George Condo’s large canvas Father and Son, 2008, which sold for £541,250 ($850,000) against an estimate of £250,000/350,000—the ­second-highest price on record for the artist.

Consignments from Charles Saatchi were less in evidence at Phillips now that the British collector is selling through Christie’s. At Phillips, the top-selling Saatchi consignment was Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Green Butterfly), 2002, which fetched £229,250 ($358,260) on a £150,000/200,000 estimate. Other works to sell from the Saatchi Collection were Grayson Perry’s Transvestite Brides of Christ, 2000, which sold for £25,000 ($39,000) against an estimate of £20,000/30,000, and Hermann Nitsch’s Golden Love, 1974, which fetched £37,250 ($58,200), just within the £30,000/50,000 estimate.

There were further signs that the market for Andy Warhol is coming back, such as the 20-by-16-inch Knives, 1981–82—similar to another Warhol composition that went unsold in June 2004 at Sotheby’s in London on a £30,000/50,000 estimate—which sold for £145,250 ($226,990) against an estimate of £150,000/250,000.

Although the list of unsold lots included works by Banks Violette, Rudolf Stingel and Gary Hume, Phillips officials were no doubt heartened by the above-estimate results for a number of other younger artists, including Banksy, Dan Colen, Tracey Emin and Ugo Rondinone.

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