Top auctions of 2014 at the Phillips auction house

[13 Mar 2015]


Fridays are the Best! Every other Friday, Artprice offers you a themed auction ranking. This week, the leader of information on the Art Market discusses the most costly auctions of 2014 at the Phillips auction house.

Founded in 1796 in London, the house has been no stranger to difficulty and changed names several times before becoming known as an important venue for the contemporary art market. On 15 May 2014, Phillips held one of the best sessions in its history, taking in a total of USD 114,814m in auction sales with only 38 lots sold, six of which were among the ten biggest auction sales of the year.

Top auctions of 2014 at the Phillips auction house
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Mark ROTHKO $50,000,000 Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange) (1955) 2014-05-15 Phillips NEW YORK NY
2 Andy & Jean-Michel WARHOL & BASQUIAT $10,000,000 Zenith (1985) 2014-05-15 Phillips NEW YORK NY
3 Andy WARHOL $9,000,000 Flowers (1964) 2014-05-15 Phillips NEW YORK NY
4 Jean-Michel BASQUIAT $8,000,000 Untitled (1981) 2014-05-15 Phillips NEW YORK NY
5 Gerhard RICHTER $7,000,000 Mächen im Sessel (Lila) (1965/66) 2014-05-15 Phillips NEW YORK NY
6 Robert RYMAN $4,500,000 Hour (2001) 2014-11-13 Phillips NEW YORK NY
7 Andy WARHOL $4,282,000 Self-Portrait (1986) 2014-07-02 Phillips LONDON
8 Willem DE KOONING $4,200,000 Untitled XVIII (1984) 2014-11-13 Phillips NEW YORK NY
9 Jeff KOONS $4,000,000 Popples (1988) 2014-05-15 Phillips NEW YORK NY
10 Wade GUYTON $4,000,000 Untitled (2006) 2014-11-13 Phillips NEW YORK NY
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A first-rate Rothko

The major works of Mark Rothko are regularly sold at the two houses that rule the Western market, namely Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Before, all canvases valued at more than a million dollars were given to one house or the other. But on May 15, 2014, without having provided an estimate for the work in its sale catalogue, Phillips sold Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange) (1955) for USD 50m, marking the second greatest strike of the gavel in its history. The house’s record for the highest sale remains held by “Men in her life” by Andy Warhol, won for USD 55m, on 8 November 2010 while the house was directed by its emblematic president Simon de Pury.
We note that Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange) (1955) was previously acquired at public auction houses, on 13 November 2007 at Christie’s New York, for USD 30,5m (excluding fees). The price of the work also increased by 64% in less than seven years!


Sound American values

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat were ever-present on the auction market in 2014. The two of them account for four of the entries in this top 10. The highest auction sale goes back to a work both painters collaborated on: Zenith (1985). This immense canvas, nearly 3 metres high and 7 metres long, sold for USD 10m, also on 15 May. A significant sum indeed, but which only barely corresponds to the low estimation for the work supplied by the Phillips house.
Two other works by Andy Warhol and J.-M. Basquiat are found in this ranking, which also have difficulties taking off. Warhol’s Flowers (1964) sold for USD 9m, or just below the bottom of its estimate (USD 10m), while Basquiat’s Untitled (1981) canvas just barely obtained the low estimate of USD 8m.


Living giants

Two artists in this Top 10 are symbols of the contemporary art scene: Gerhard Richter (1932) and Jeff Koons (1955). They are also the only two living artists who managed to slip into the Top 500 2014.
The first, and the eldest, saw one of his works rise to 5th place in the ranking of the year’s greatest auction sales at Phillips: Machen im Sessel (Lila) was created nearly 50 years ago. Popples by Jeff Koons, which is also the only sculpture in this Top 10, is already 30 years old.


The most unexpected

Robert Ryman (1930) and Wade Guyton (1972) are two surprises on this list, but it is clear that that 2014 was an exceptional year for both of them. Ryman took 49th place in the 2014 ranking of the best-performing artists in auction sales, while the young protégé of the Petzel Gallery snagged 72nd place, with nearly USD 30m in auction sales throughout the year.
The ranking ends like it began, with an Abstract Expressionist canvas. The canvas Untitled XVIII (1984) by Willem de Kooning (1904–1997) sold for USD 4,2m on 13 November 2014 at Phillips New York, underscoring the phenomenal success this movement has had on American soil.