Phillips will establish a new Asia headquarters in Hong Kong’s storied West Kowloon Cultural District in the fall of 2022, putting it close to the newly opened M+ museum. The news came shortly after Phillips reported that it had made $1.2 billion in sales during the last year. That annual figure was a record for the house, and it marked a 32 percent increase over 2019’s number.
In 2021, the house’s auctions generated $993.3 million, an increase of 35 percent over 2019. Likewise, its private sales channel also managed to thrive, even as people returned to live sales. That area of business brought in the remaining $208.2 million.
The new Hong Kong headquarters will put the boutique house, which is owned by Russian retailer Mercury Group, at the center of one of Asia’s bustling cultural hubs. The auction house will rent out 48,000 square feet in the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Tower, taking over five and a half floors floors of the 16-story building that overlooks the region’s Victoria Harbour. The top two floors will be used as an exhibition space for auction previews, while the remaining three will serve as retail and office space.
West Kowloon’s chief executive officer, Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, said in a statement that the addition of Phillips to the area will begin a “long-term collaboration” that will see Phillips contribute to “local, regional and international arts and cultural development.”
The auction house, which already has headquarters in New York and London, has seen its intake from its sales in Hong Kong almost double in the last year, as it continues to reap profits from an ongoing collaboration with China’s Poly Auction. In Asia, the house sold more than HKD $2.1 billion ($270 million) in art, nearly doubling 2020’s figure.
Asian buyers accounted for 36 percent of spending across auction channels at Phillips globally. Phillips reported that half of the top ten lots sold in 2021, went to buyers in Asia. Among those lots were works by Francis Bacon and Georgia O’Keeffe, two juggernauts on the auction block.
The record year signifies that Stephen Brooks, who took over as CEO for Ed Dolman this year, has so far led the house to success. In a statement, Brooks said he believes the house is poised for even larger sums in 2022. He called bolstering Phillips’s presence in Asia a “critical component of our growth strategy.” In September, the CEO told ARTnews in April that part of his long-term plan for the house was to expand the size of evening sales, which have remained the same size for five years, in order to accommodate hunger among buyers.