LONDON—Phillips, de Pury & Company witnessed the least dramatic downturn of the three auctioneers in its sales held during the week of the Frieze Art Fair, with two sales on Oct. 17 that made £6.7 million ($10.9 million), compared with £8.1 million ($14.1 million) last year. However, Phillips’s performance last year was by far the worst of the three houses, with a total barely one-third of the estimate. This time, although the total came much closer to the estimate of £7.8 million/11 million, Phillips was still the only saleroom not to meet its estimate, and 28 percent of lots offered failed to find buyers.
The top lot of the sale was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Year of the Boar, 1983, a large triptych that had last been auctioned in 1999 for £155,500 ($248,000). Ten years later, it fetched £1.1 million ($1.8 million) against a £900,000/1.2 million estimate. The work sold to a buyer on the phone, against bidding from dealer Gerard Faggionato and Italian former race car driver Moz Fabris, who reportedly now works in the financial industry in London and Milan. Fabris went on to acquire the catalogue cover lot, Lucio Fontana’s painted terracotta Concetto Spaziale, 1958–60, for £241,250 ($395,650), just below the estimate of £250,000/350,000.
The main feature of the sale was a selection of works by Martin Kippenberger from the collection of Gabriella Bleich-Rossi, who, with her late husband, Alexander Bleich-Rossi, had worked closely with the artist at their gallery in Graz, Austria (Galerie Bleich-Rossi has since relocated to Vienna). Although a work by Kippenberger was the top lot in Christie’s sale, demand for his work is clearly selective. The top-selling work by the artist in this auction was the painting Big Until Great Hunger, 1984, which sold to the gallery Pablo’s Birthday, New York, for £433,250 ($710,530) on an estimate of £400,000/600,000. But three other works, including Der Herr Joszi, 1987, a triptych of portraits estimated at £350,000/500,000 ($579,000/827,000), did not sell. A collection of Kippenberger archival material from the Bleich-Rossi collection was also exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery during the week and was for sale privately.
The other main unsold works were Andy Warhol’s small Skull, 1976, estimated at £450,000/650,000 ($744,000/1.07 million), and Suffix (Herbaceous Perennial), 2006, by Indian artist Jitish Kallat, estimated at £120,000/180,000 ($198,000/298,000).
As part of its sponsorship deal with Phillips, the Saatchi Gallery also consigned several works to the sales. These included Florian Maier-Aichen’s large Cibachrome Untitled (Saddle Peak), 2004, which sold for £103,250 ($169,330), against an estimate of £60,000/80,000, and Turner Prize nominee Enrico David’s Dinisblumen, 1999, which sold for £27,500 ($45,100), doubling the estimate of £8,000/12,000.
On Oct. 15, Phillips also held separate sales of photography and design as part of Frieze week. The total results—£694,625 ($1.1 million) for photography and £1.23 million ($2 million) for design—were hardly mind-boggling, but they did put Phillips ahead of the competition in number of lots offered (639, versus Sotheby’s and Christie’s combined 452) that week.