The news of the week that passed almost subtly is that Phillips showed new form and ran a reasonably strong £17m sale without excessive direct guarantees and with most lots selling close to their estimates (which has been a perennial problem at Phillips under the previous management.) Judd Tully captured this in a quote from dealer Inigo Philbrick:
“I was all set for it to be a debacle,” said London dealer Inigo Philbrick, “but it felt like a successful sale and seemed like a lot of the prices were strong.”
Indeed, Colin Gleadell points out that the new building, new additions to the staff and new management are doing wonders for Phillips’s credibility:
Phillips also achieved a landmark price for the American artist Mark Bradford, when his very large mixed-media canvas Biting the Book (2013), bought from a show at London’s White Cube that closed only a year ago, attracted multiple telephone bids before selling to a client speaking to Philips’s New York–based president Michael McGinnis, for a record £2.5 million ($3.9 million), double the estimate and four times the gallery retail price for such a work. The fact that Phillips could attract such a major contemporary work for sale—the only one by Bradford in the London auction series—and fetch such a price, spoke volumes about Phillips’s advancing credibility.
Summing up the entire week, Katya Kazakina had this in her Bloomberg story about Phillips:
“These sales were average and the works found buyers, with reasonably good quality selling at higher values,” said Skarlet Smatana, director of the George Economou Collection in Athens, who attended the auctions. “That’s pretty much the story of this season.”
“There’s a softening at higher estimates for young, recognized artists,” said Smatana. “When you see Tauba at 1.5 million pounds, there is not a lot of room.”
Gleadell makes a good point about former stars returning to the market at Phillips:
Several stars of yesteryear are under scrutiny. A painting by the once much coveted Cecily Brown, which was bought in 2011 for £421,250, was unsold at £380,000.
But it is worth noting that Christie’s did a fine job with another Cecily Brown canvas earlier in the week selling it mid-estimate and in line with other previous sales of the painter’s work.
We’ll give the last word on the Phillips sale to Tully:
Phillips guaranteed five lots with third party backers valued at £4.4–6.9 million. […]
Phillips’s sweet spot remains with the younger, emerging star set as evidenced by (lot 2) Mark Flood’s “Another Hole in the Ground” lace painting from 2012 that sold for £42,500/$64,600 (est. £20–30,000) — and the evening’s final lot, Oscar Murillo’s expressionist “Bingo” from 2012, executed in oil, oil stick, and dirt on canvas. It sold to the telephone for £206,500/$313,880 (est. £120–180,000).
Ai Weiwei Sets Record as Phillips Caps $772 Million Sales (Bloomberg Business)
Phillips’s Tidy Little Evening Sale (BLOUIN ARTINFO)