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Phillips… a rising power with a BIG 3rd place

[04 Jun 2019]

While Christie’s and Sotheby’s recent breathtaking results in New York clearly dwarfed those of their competitors, Phillips’ results were better than ever before with a remarkable sold rate of 98%.

Up 40%…

Difficult to compete with the $341.8 million taken at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art sale on 16 May or the $538.9 million hammered at Christie’s the day before. However Phillips is currently posting very strong results and is maintaining its status as the West’s no. 3 auction house on the hot Contemporary art segment. Its 16 May sale (the same evening as Sotheby’s) generated €100 million, up 40% on last year (20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 17 May 2018).

Phillips’ spectacular increase versus last year was driven by several multi-million results including a de Kooning that fetched $10.2 million, a Basquiat that went for $9.5 million, a Mark Bradford painting that was hammered down for $8.7 million The was also a Roy Lichtenstein that sold for $5.9 million, and a KAWS acrylic (The Walk Home) which reached $5.955 million against a high estimate of $800,000. The latter represents the second best-ever auction result for Kaws is enjoying strong demand from American film stars and rich Asian buyers. A few weeks before the sale of this painting inspired by Bob the Sponge, another Kaws work (The Kaws Album, 2005) caused a veritable sensation in Hong Kong by fetching nearly $15 million at Sotheby’s, nearly 15 times its high estimate! The buyer of the Simpsons-inspired “The Kaws Album” is rumoured to be the young and extremely successful pop star, Justin Bieber… a big fan of the artist.

Three records, minus one…

After the May 16 sale, Phillips announced three new auction records: one for Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita whose work is supported by the galleries Mary Boone (NYC) and Blum & Poe (his Be Just Like Family [2015] fetched more than a million dollars including fees); another for the Swiss artist Nicolas Party who received good exposure last year at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco (SF MoMA) as part of the exhibition Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season (his Landscape, [2015] reached $608,000, six times its low estimate), and yet another for the American artist Dana SCHUTZ when her Signing (2009) sold for well beyond Phillips’s expectations at $980,000 (vs; a low estimate of $350,000). However that new record was short-lived because not far away, on the same evening, Sotheby’s managed to sell a larger work by Dana Schutz – Civil Planning (2004) – for six times the high estimate, at a final price of $2.42 million.

In just 24 hours, the artist’s auction record rose from $795,000 to $980,000 and then $2.42 million.

Schutz’s market consecration comes three months after a remarkable exhibition at the Petzel Gallery in New York… an exhibition considered by Roberta Smith of the New York Times as the best of her career (article Dana Schutz’s New Paintings Just Might Be Her Best in the New York Times, on 7 February 2019). The artist seems to have recovered from her highly controversial entry in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and the market now appears to appreciate her work.

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