Phillips is making steady progress despite its tough position within the art market. Outgunned by its much larger rivals and battling its own former history, the auction house managed to secure enough property to post a $97m evening sale. But people like London’s Kenny Schachter are perennial Phillips skeptics. Schachter, at least, remains so, as Scott Reyburn points out:
“This week was fantastic,” said Kenny Schachter, a London dealer. “But tonight is a disappointment, and that is not unexpected.”
Still, the results were better than the $52 million that Phillips had taken at its evening sale in November.
Others seem to be warming to house as Katya Kazakina discovered:
“It’s probably the best auction Phillips has ever had,” said collector Don Rubell. “It clearly moves them to a new level. It’s not ebullient, but things are selling.”
Phillips itself was perhaps too ebullient in planning for the sale. The auction house guaranteed the Lebowitz collection after tough bargaining by Art Agency Partners’s Amy Cappellazzo in a deal said to be worth $33-34m. Eileen Kinsella did the math on the whole collection
which shows a substantial shortfall (Update: Up to 10 more Lebowitz lots are said to be included in the London sales which should help close the gap):
Bidding seemed to be more robust for works from a private American collection— in all they accounted for $20.4 million of the sale total—and featured numerous pieces by Ed Ruscha and James Lee Byers. The consignors were not identified by Phillips, but the New York Times reported this past March that they are Laurence Lebowitz and his wife Naomi Aberly, a fundraiser for Democrats. The works on offer included Ruscha’s Porch Crop (2001) that sold for $2.1 million (estimate: $1.8—2.5 million), and three other solid Ruscha sales.
As was reported in the New York Times and Financial Times, Phillips worked in an undisclosed manner with Ann Freedman, the former director of Knoedler Gallery which closed in the wake of the Glafira Rosales art forgery revelations, on a new color field section of the sale that added to the overall total without generating spectacular results. Bloomberg spotted Kim Heirston buying one of those works:
“The sales generally have been incredibly strong,” said art adviser Kim Heirston, who bought a work by Helen Frankenthaler for $1.2 million. “The fatigue always is a factor at this point in the week, but for the great quality works there’s still a lot of energy.”
Several lots outperformed expectations. A white acrylic painting with geometric pencil lines by Agnes Martin sold for $4.2 million. A 1961 oil painting by Wayne Thiebaud, “Hamburger Counter,” depicting a hamburger, bottle of orange soda, and condiments, sold for $2.2 million.
Art Market Reaches New Milestone With $2.7 Billion Sales Frenzy (Bloomberg Business)
Phillips Contemporary Sale Was Solid (artnet News)