To get the backstory of auction newcomers like Salman Toor and Portia Zvavahera, two of the evening’s best performers, as well as the sellers of the Baselitz, Warhol, Hirst and Tillmans, read Colin Gleadell’s detailed Art Market Monitor report on buyers and sellers available to AMMpro subscribers.
On Tuesday, coinciding with London’s Frieze week, Phillips held its contemporary art evening sale event at its U.K. headquarters. The sale realized a total of £26.3 million ($34.1 million) with buyer’s premium across 36 lots, seeing a 95 percent sell-through rate. Without premium, the sale hammered at £21.5 million ($27.8 million), putting it just below the low end of the £21.6 million–£30.1 million pre-sale estimate range. Two lots by Damien Hirst and KAWS were withdrawn before the sale’s start.
Ten of the sale’s lot were guaranteed, with a combined low estimate of £8.9 million ($11.5 million).
The result beat last year’s equivalent sale total of £25.9 million ($33.5 million). Overall, 18 percent of lots sold above the high estimate, 15% sold in the middle of the estimate range and 18 percent made a price below the low estimate. The sale realized auction records emerging artists Titus Kaphar, Emily Mae Smith, and Portia Zvavahera.
In a post-sale press conference, Phillips CEO Edward Dolman said a significant portion of bidding came from Asia. According to Dolman, the results demonstrate the active competition in the contemporary middle market, claiming the sale showed “just how in demand this new generation of artists to the auction world are.”
Auctioneer Henry Highly led the live sale from the house’s London salesroom. Several of the top lots were by blue-chip artists, who although led by price, performed below their expectations. George Baselitz’s monumental Das letzte Selbstbidnis I (1982), featuring the artist’s signature upside-down figure, hammered below the low estimate at £4.1 million, making £5 million ($6.5 million), achieving the third highest price for the artist. It came from the collection of the Paris-based contemporary art patron Marcel Brient. After the sale, Phillips chairman Cheyenne Westhpal said that allow they did not see the Baselitz lot draw the level of competition for which they had initially hoped, she confirmed the pre-sale low estimate set a high bar for bidders.
Other top lots include Jean Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Pestus), 1982, a work on paper, which sold for £2.2 million ($2.9 million), hammering about 10 percent below the low estimate as well. George Condo’s red canvas The Age of Reason (2010) sold for £2.3 million ($3 million), against an estimate of £2 million. The seller purchased the Condo during Christie’s London contemporary art evening sale for £722,500 in 2016. This sale marks an 218 percent increase in the six year holding period.
Sean Scully’s striped canvas, Somebody’s Angel (2017), made £1 million ($1.3 million). Another work by Basquiat, a unique black-ground screen-print from an edition of 8 titled Back of the Neck (1982) sold for £627,500 ($813,000) against an estimate of £450,000. That work, along with George Condo and a Keith Haring mask generated £4.4 million, with all proceeds going to the Bedari foundation, a private family charitable organization in New York. A Dana Schutz painting from 2017, made after the highly-circulated media image of President Trump descending an escalator following his election to office, sold for £688,000 ($890,000). It beat its estimate of £380,000.
Phillips sales typically spur competitive bidding for in-demand artists with rising primary markets. This sale was no different. Sixteen registered bidders competed for Titus Kaphar’s 2016 oil on panel, Alternate Endings, depicting two figures—one fully rendered, the other, an empty silhouette. The work sold for £370,000 ($604,000), eight times the estimate of £60,000, establishing a new auction record for the artist. In July, the artist’s previous record moved up to $350,000 at Christie’s contemporary day sale. Opening the sale was Brooklyn-based painter Emily Mae Smith’s Alien Shores (2018); her work has seen attention for its Pop art style drawing on the uncanny. 18 clients vied for the piece, with competitive online bids from Hong Kong. The painting eventually sold for £277,200 ($359,000) against an estimate of £40,000.
“She hits all the right notes with the current collecting aesthetic,” said Kate Bryant, Phillips head of the contemporary art evening sale in London during the post-sale press conference, adding that the artist’s work is difficult to acquire on the primary market. “The scarcity of the work and quality of the work are driving the strong prices,” said Bryant.
Early on in the sale, Pakistani-born, New York–based figurative painter Salman Toor’s Aashiana (Hearth and Home), 2012, sold for £138,600 ($142,000), going to an online bidder in Taiwan. It beat the estimate of £30,000. The result marks the artist’s auction debut and coincides with a major solo exhibition soon to open at the Whitney Museum in New York.
Among the other auction newcomers to see high bidding was Otis Quaicoe. His 2019 figurative painting Black Stripes on White (2019) went for £94,500 ($122,000), five times the estimate of £20,000, won by a bidder in Japan. In September, Phillips sold the Oregon-based painter’s Old Town Boy (2019) for $137,500 during the house’s New York “New Now” sale. A number of Quaicoe’s works have flooded the market following his auction debut price of $250,000 paid for Shade of Black (2018) in Phillips July 20th century art evening sale.