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Phillips: eclectic taste

[21 Feb 2017]

As the major auction firms get ready for their early-March sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art in London, Phillips has published a particularly dense and diverse catalogue for its sale on 10 March 2017. The 180 works in the Phillips catalogue suggest a three-hour session (at least) and include lots of major signatures like Picasso, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Sam Francis, Sigmar Polke, Cindy Sherman and Ai Weiwei. However, there will also be plenty of young artists as well, some in their thirties, like Korakrit Arunanondchai (Thailand), Margo Wolowiec (California), Wyatt Kahn (New York), Cyprien Gaillard (France), Eddie Peake (UK) and the high media-profile Lucien Smith (born in 1989, the youngest artist in the sale). With some lots priced below £10,000 and others expected to fetch over £100,000, the sale includes numerous small formats by global stars of the art market as well as a number of imposing works that could be of interest to major collectors and museums alike.

Big signatures… small formats

An early work by Andy Warhol, a drawing by Picasso, a very early painting by Gerhard Richter on an unconventional medium (book)… the small formats by internationally recognized artists will no doubt attract an enthusiastic crowd of collectors.

£10,000 – £15,000… that’s the estimate for a small ink /collage by the young Romanian artist Adrian GHENIE who happens to be one of the rare artists in the world to have crossed the million-dollar auction threshold before his fortieth birthday. He also generated the best result at Christie’s on 6 October 2016 when his large canvas Nickelodeon – estimated between $1 and $2 million – went under the hammer at $9 million!

£12,000 – £18,000 for each of the two embroidered works by Alighiero BOETTI (1940-1994): Il silenzio é d’oro and Cinque x cinque Venticinque, each measuring about twenty centimeters wide and dated 1988. Note however that over the past thirty years the embroidered colors have altered and now appear a little faded.

£18,000 – £22,000 for a small pencil drawing by Pablo PICASSO. Study for Photographer measures 27 cm wide and 11 cm tall, is dated 1964 and has impeccable provenance. The drawing has spent its life in a private collection in Holland.

£30,000 – £50,000 for a 30 cm high pencil drawing by Yoshitomo NARA. Nara is one of the most sought after Japanese artists in the world and his price index has risen + 335% over the past decade.

£30,000 – £50,000 for a stylish wooden shoe (roughly £1,700 per centimeter) painted in 1948 by a young Andy WARHOL (aged 20).

Moving up the price ladder… £60,000 – £80,000 is the estimate for a small Jackie (45 cm) by Andy Warhol, perfectly dated (1964) and never before sold. This little gem was acquired by its current owner directly from the artist in 1967. The provenance is therefore impeccable and the estimate is unlikely to discourage fans considering that a similar version on a gold background fetched £285,000 ($355,500) in November 2016 at Christie’s in New York.

£80,000 – £120,000 for a small work by the German star Gerhard RICHTER. Essentially a 25 cm book that the artist painted with oil. The book is number 20 from an edition of 20 abstract book paintings. A Miniature canvas by Richter measuring eight centimeters tall fetched nearly £48,000 three months ago in Berlin (nearly $60,000 at Grisebach Berlin on 2 December 2016), so this small format work is expected to reach its estimated range quite easily.

Higher still, the Post-Minimalist Mexican artist Gabriel OROZCO’s Samurai Tree 3L is expected to fetch between £160,000 and £250,000. Measuring 55 cm tall, this painting is typical of the quest for balance found in Orozco’s best works. Moreover, the same work has already been sold by Phillips: in 2008 it fetched £90,500 ($179,000). The current estimate suggests its value has doubled in less than 10 years.

Museum quality works…

Fans of large formats and emblematic works are expected to pay £20,000 – £30 000 for a majestic drawing by Jan FABRE, a superb example of the artist’s talent and patience, entirely executed with a blue biro pen in 1989. Acquired by its current owner from the Gallian gallery in Genoa, this is the first time the work has been offered for sale in a public auction.

If you double that price range, you might be in with a chance to acquire Thomas RUFF superb photo of the night sky entitled Star 13h 25m / -30 ° (ETS 3.24) from an edition of just 2. Purchased directly from the artist by the current owner, this work measures 260 x 188 cm and is carrying a conservative estimate of £50,000 – £70,000 since other works of a similar calibre have already passed £60,000 ($90,000) at auctions in the past.

For £70,000 (at least) a double-signature work by William Kentridge and Marguerite Stephens could be yours: Streets of the City is a large format tapestry (380 x 380 cm) from an edition of six. The work was presented at the exhibition William Kentridge: Thick Time at the Whitechapel Gallery from 21 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.

Urs FISCHER’s sculpture Lion in Chains is expected to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000. The work was purchased in 2014 at the Gagosian Gallery in New York. The Swiss artist, who lives in New York, is one of the world’s most sought-after Contemporary artists. In 2015, Christie’s sold an untitled paraffin sculpture for $4 million ($600,000 above its high estimate). Fischer’s auction record was generated by his monumental sculpture Untitled (Lamp-Bear) which fetched over $6 million at Christie’s New York in 2011.

Several of the works in the sale have already been to auction with some collectors deciding to resell their Contemporary pieces relatively quickly. This has generated certain ‘opportunities’… for example, a mixed technique work by Jonathan MEESE, Dr. Kubros (Sankt Maria Pjarr) which was acquired for the equivalent of £8,000 in 2012 ( $12,500 at Phillips de Pury & Company New York) and is now being offered with a low estimate of £5,000. Another example is a very lewd sculpture by Jake & Dinos CHAPMAN called Cockroach Kid. Having failed to sell on several occasions (in 2007 at Phillips de Pury & Company New York, in 2013 at Sotheby’s London, in 2015 at Christie’s in London) the estimate has been revised down, starting at £12,000 compared with £15,000 or £20,000 previously.

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