Fred Forest vs Beeple – Major success at Phillips

[18 Jun 2021]

Fred Forest more expensive than Beeple…

On 15 June, Fred FOREST – a French artist familiar with initiatives highlighting the speculative mechanisms within the art market – sent ripples through the art world by offering an NFT (on the specialized NFT platform, Opensea) purposefully priced above the result fetched by Beeple’s now famous digital collage Everydays, which sold for 69.3 million on 11 March at Christie’s.

Fred Forest is a pioneer of multimedia art – from video art developed in the late 1960s, to net art with which he has been experimenting since the mid-1990s. Still active today, his entire oeuvre was added to the collection of the INA (National Audiovisual Institute) in July 2005. He is the only living French artist to enjoy such a status today.

At 87, this outstanding experimenter has set out to challenge BEEPLE by offering his NFT-Archeology for the sum of 69.3 million + 1 symbolic dollar. NFT-Archeology is based on the first virtual artwork ever sold at auction… back in 1996! Back then, auctioneer Jean-Claude Binoche sold a work by Forest titled Parcelle / Réseau at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris for a sum equivalent to $10,000. For this amount, the purchaser (the company n@rt) acquired a secure internet code allowing it access to the virtual work by Fred Forest… no less than a quarter of a century ago.

This time, NFT-Archeology is being offered for sale for an indefinite period, and, in the conditions of sale it is specified that “should (during the period the work is offered) another NFT work be acquired for an amount greater than the most expensive NFT work in the world today, NFT-Archeology will then be priced at the new price + 1 symbolic dollar. In effect, Forest’s NFT-Archeology could become – definitively – the most valued NFT in the world…at least virtually.

Major success at Phillips Hong Kong

A ‘white glove’ sale with 86% of the lots reaching beyond their high estimates and a record attendance of 800 online bidders from 45 countries with new auction records for 17 artists… just some of the key data for the latest sales of 20th Century and Contemporary Art and Design (June 7 and 8) at Phillips in Hong Kong.

These superb results are the fruit of an intelligent partnership between Phillips and Poly Auction. Since their first joint sale in November 2020, the collaboration – described as “historic” by Edward Dolman (CEO of Phillips) – allows the British and Chinese auctioneers to substantially expand their reach and their power. Together, they might even dethrone Christie’s, which currently generates a third of Hong Kong’s auction turnover on Contemporary art.

The clear star of these “Phillips + Poly” sales was Yoshitomo NARA with no less than by 10 works offered, including Missing in Action, which fetched an exceptional price of $16 million, the artist’s third best-ever auction result.

Among other notable results, an Abstraktes Bild (940-7) by Gerhard RICHTER reached $12.2 million and a night landscape by Matthew WONG sold for $4.7 million, the artist’s second best-ever auction result. Wong’s auction record was also hammered at a Phillips sale in Hong Kong (almost $4.9 million for River at Dusk on 3 December 2020).

The 17 new auction records included $1.6 million for the American artist Emily Mae SMITH, whose canvas Broom Life climbed to over 20 times its high estimate. Represented by the Rodolphe Janssen gallery and currently showing at the Perrotin gallery in Tokyo – Smith’s record has quadrupled over the last six months … In her wake, the young Loie HOLLOWELL (1983) crossed the $1 million threshold for the first time when her First Contact sold for $1.4 million (10 times the low estimate). There were also new records for Salman Toor, Jadé Fadojutimi, Ayako Rokkaku and Chiharu Shiota.

The total from the two days of sales was $90.4 million, an impressive result that Phillips would not have been able to achieve alone in Hong Kong. According to the British house, the buying dynamic is continuing to grow in Asia: 86% of the lots offered in these 20th Century and Contemporary Art and Design sales were purchased by Asian customers.