Colin Gleadell focuses on Phillips rising ambitions with a stand alone Italian sale in New York, the Leibowitz collection and a big Bacon portrait guaranteed to sell at $25m:
Seated Woman, is presented by Phillips as a portrait of Muriel Belcher, the foul-mouthed lesbian proprietor of Soho’s Colony Room club who paid Bacon to bring his friends to drink there.
Deakin did photograph Belcher, but never in the nude. Phillips believes the painting is based on an amalgam of Belcher’s head in Deakin’s photographs, but with her hair arranged differently, and another woman’s body. This tougher, somewhat less flattering image was bought as a portrait of Belcher in 2007 at Sotheby’s in Paris by London dealer Alan Hobart, for a client, for $20.2 million – a record for a contemporary painting at an auction in France. Now estimated at $25 million, it has effectively been sold because Phillips has guaranteed an undisclosed sum for it, though it could make more.
While the portrait of Moraes is the more valuable of the two, it does not stick out at Christie’s which is offering a Picasso for $140 million, a Giacometti for $130 million, and a Rothko and a Freud for up to $50 million each in the same week. The Muriel Belcher painting, however, stands out as by far the most valuable work at Phillips, where it will arguably attract more attention.
For Phillips, this is a big deal. It has only ever sold two works for over $20 million before – a Rothko and a Warhol.
Art Sales: Phillips ups its game (Telegraph)