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Phillips Opens Auction Week With Up-and-Down Contemporary Sale

Phillips de Pury & Company went first in the London series, timing their sale of contemporary art for the evening of Oct. 13, the same day as the private view at the Frieze Art Fair, while both Sotheby's and Christie's were holding their presale receptions.

LONDON—Phillips de Pury & Company went first in the London series, timing their sale of contemporary art for the evening of Oct. 13, the same day as the private view at the Frieze Art Fair, while both Sotheby’s and Christie’s were holding their presale receptions. The effect of this timing was unclear, but the room was only three-quarters full, and the unsold rate of 31 percent by lot (16 of the 51 lots went unsold), was the highest of the week, including the part-two sales.

The total of £6.6million ($10.6million) was a major improvement over that of last June’s sale, but in hammer terms, was still below the £6.5million overall low estimate.

Most of the top lots found buyers, which helped produce a healthier 86 percent sold-by-value rate. Autumn Pool (Paper Pool 29), 1978, an exceptionally large work on paper by David Hockney, set a record for a work by the artist in that medium. It sold to a phone buyer for £1.3million ($2million) against bidding from adviser Abigail Asher (estimate: £700,000/1million).

Andy Warhol’s The Scream (After Edvard Munch), 1984, was marked in the catalogue as a lot in which the house held a financial interest. That was because it had gone unsold with a guarantee at Phillips in June 2008, when it carried an estimate of £800,000/1.2million. Re-offered now with a reduced £500,000/700,000 estimate, it sold for £657,250 ($1million) to a phone buyer, against bidding from New York dealer Christophe Van de Weghe in the room. The painting had previously sold at Christie’s in London for £1.1million ($2.1million) in 2007.

The sale included 13 works from the Saatchi Collection, and eight sold, all within estimates and some for record prices. The records were for Sterling Ruby, whose large spray-painted canvas SP58, 2006, sold for £193,250 ($303,403) on an estimate of £150,000/250,000; Aaron Young, whose Greeting Card 10a, 2007, a huge 10-part stained plywood, acrylic, and burnt rubber work of incised motorcycle tire marks made during a performance, sold for £121,250 ($194,000) on an estimate of £80,000/120,000; and Dana Schutz, whose Frank in the Desert, 2002, sold for £181,250 ($290,000) against an estimate of £150,000/250,000. While all of these had been acquired on the primary market, Martin Kippen­berger’s Lonesome?, 1993, had been acquired at Sotheby’s in February 2004 for £55,200 ($99,360), and returned a cool profit, selling for £181,250 ($290,000) on an estimate of £150,000/200,000. Works by Terence Koh and Banks Violette from the Saatchi Collection were catalogued, but withdrawn from the sale.

The auction was also the occasion of the first publicized auction sales from the Adam Linde­mann collection. Out of 12 lots of German art executed within the last seven years, eight sold, but only two within estimate, to bring a cumulative £351,000 ($561,600) against a low estimate, without premium, of £475,000. The top seller of the Lindemann lots was Untitled, 2006, a chrome-enamel varnished bronze by Anselm Reyle, which sold for £115,250 ($184,400) on an estimate of £100,000/150,000.

Another seller was the beleaguered Russian finance company KIT Finance, which consigned several works acquired recently from London galleries White Cube, Simon Lee and Stephen Friedman. The top lot of these, and the only one to hit its estimate, was Antony Gormley’s steel block figure Sublimate XVI, 2008, which sold for £277,250 ($443,600) on a £200,000/300,000 estimate.

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