Phillips closed out a wild week of Contemporary art sales last night with a guarantee-backed 130.9m sale, it’s biggest since Philippe Ségalot’s Carte Blanche sale in 2010. Facing competition in its traditional bailiwick of establishing auction markets for young artists, Phillips remains a bellwether. Judd Tully gathered some string on this:
Jack Tilton was in the salesroom on Thursday, too, and characterized the evening this way: “The young stuff is going through the roof, some of the classics did OK, and some struggled. All this young abstraction stuff is going for $200,000 to half a million. It looks like a shift in the market. Let’s see if it lasts for more than fifteen minutes.”
Katya Kazakina concurs:
“Phillips usually has a hard time getting material,” Tony Shafrazi, a New York art dealer, said after the sale. “But all in all they did surprisingly well.”
Dan Duray offered this information-dense synopsis:
The evening’s top lot, a vivid 1955 Mark Rothko, saw three phone bidders and eventually sold for $56.2 million, a notable appreciation, especially for a work just 67 by 49 inches, over its last time at auction, when it sold for $34.2 million at Christie’s in 2007, according to Artnet’s price database. (Though the Rothko, a guaranteed lot, was not also sold without a bit of mystery: the price went up to $45 million and then, for some reason, back down to $44 million, before, after a few moments, jumping to $46 million.) The evening’s cover lot, Gerhard Richter’s Mädchen im Sessel (Lila) (1965-1966) also saw an impressive return. The piece went for $8 million tonight. The last time it was at auction, at the 2004 Sotheby’s spring evening sale, it sold for $1.5 million.
Mr. Gilkes’ enthusiasm was matched best, however, by an untinted sky box that looked over the auction room, which held Leonardo DiCaprio and his ilk. After a 2006 Wade Guyton hammered for $1.8 million, Mr. DiCaprio could be seen golf clapping to his room, presumably because he either bought it or owns a similar one. The DiCaprio crew seemed to purchase Voie piétonnière (1981) by Jean Dubuffet, because they started banging on the glass of the window when the lot reached $500,000, which was the eventual hammer price. “I’ve seen that group act that way before,” outgoing Phillips CEO Michael McGinnis said, not mentioning Mr. DiCaprio by name. “Apparently they like to celebrate that way.”
And Carol Vogel added a few more observations:
Stavros Merjos, a Los Angeles dealer, was the only taker for one of Warhol’s “Flowers,” from 1964. Although the piece was expected to sell for $10 million to $15 million, he managed to buy it for $9 million, or $10.2 million with fees.
But sculptures by Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein and David Smith failed to get so much as one bid.
For younger artists, competition heated up. A canvas filled with black X’s by Wade Guyton, estimated to bring $1.5 million to $2 million, sold for $2.1 million with fees to Daniella Luxembourg, a private dealer.
And Eileen Kinsella at Artnet’s news site took a break from fluffing artnet shareholder and Phillips auctioneer Alexander Glikes to cite these sales:
Also fresh off a record at the Christie’s special Monday night sale was Joe Bradley, whose Blonde (2011), a mixed-media on canvas, sold for a record $965,000 on an estimate of $500–700,000. Tonight his Standing Nude (2007) vinyl on canvas in four parts, stood quite tall when it sold for $581,000 on an estimate of $200,000–300,000. (Check out Alexandra Peers’s take on this artist’s market here.)
Tauba Auerbach’s acrylic on canvas Untitled (Fold) (2011) was bought by Richard Gray Gallery director Andrew Fabricant for $1.8 million, handily clearing its estimate of $800,000–1.2 million.
And Dana Schutz’s large, arresting painting Reformers (2004) gave observers a new record to talk about when it sold for $605,000 on an estimate of $200,000–300,000.