On Thursday, Phillips staged its marquee contemporary evening sale with a night of high results lead by staple names like Joan Mitchell and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The sale comes on the heels of a five-hour long live-streamed global evening sale at Sotheby’s that brought in an excess of $360 million held on Monday, securing a long-awaited reassurance in the market following the pandemic’s overhaul of the traditional auction schedule. The evening’s hour-long sale brought 25 lots lead by auctioneer, Henry Highley, and saw an overall 100% sell-through rate; the auction realized a total figure of $41 million, meeting the high pre-sale estimate. The day sale total rang in at $10.2 million sold 87% by lot.
The leading lot of the night was Joan Mitchell’s canvas Noël featuring the artist’s thick, impasto drip field scheme from the early 1960s, consigned from an American collection. The painting met its reserve opening bidding at $8 million quickly, but drew only six bids to meet its pre-sale value of $9.5 million at the hammer. The final price was $11.1 million. In a press conference following the auction, Robert Manley dubbed the work “an auctioneer’s dream.” He noted that two bidders ultimately competed for the work, calling the end result a “knock out painting, for a knock-out price.” The historic work came to the market after nearly three decades in the same hands. It was bought by the seller in 1995 and the Phillips sale marks its debut auction. The high result achieved for the Mitchell follows the sale of the storied Ginny Williams collection at Sotheby’s that reopened the market with aggressive remote bidding on Monday—bringing in new records for female postwar stars like Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler—who have long been undervalued next to their male contemporaries.Continue Reading