Phillips continues to make progress moving itself toward a meaningful position within the Contemporary art megaplex. Last night’s £18m sale was twice the total volume of the previous year’s event. Although the auction house is still bedeviled by its own habit of estimating works on aspirations rather than on realistic expectations.
Colin Gleadell points out that Phillips as come to hold a strong position in the markets of a few painters like Carrol Dunham and Ai Weiwei:
the top two for Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. After they sold a set of gold plated zodiac figures by him for a record £2.9 million last February to Facebook founding president, Sean Parker, they led last night’s sale with a bronze set estimated at £3 million which they knocked down for precisely that: £3.4 million or $5.4 million including premium, and a new record.
Gleadell was also keeping his eye out for profits:
Probably the biggest gain of the sale was made by Greek collector Dimitri Daskalopoulos. He bought Chris Ofili’s painting, Homage, (1993-95), at auction in 1998 for £19,550. His gain can be measured against the £300,000 low estimate on the work, but it is questionable whether there was any gain for Phillips as it sold for £302,500 including the buyer’s premium to a third party guarantor.
The Master, Judd Tully, captures some of the interesting twists in the background of Phillips’s sale:
Things were more patchy on the blue chip front, with two of the five Warhols offered biting the dust. The petite 14-by-14-inch “Flowers” from 1964, signed and dated by the artist (always a good sign in the Warhol market), also bearing an Ileana Sonnabend provenance, sold to the telephone for £722,500/$1,134,325 (est. £650-850,000). Less impressive, though much larger in scale, Warhol’s lithographic suite “Marilyn Monroe” from 1967, a portfolio of ten screen prints of the screen goddess in different colors, including the original corrugated cardboard portfolio box, sold for £1,202,500/$1,887,925 (est. £1–1.5 million). It last sold at Phillips New York in March 2014 for $1.8 million, so call it a wash for the seller.
Of the four Ed Ruscha paintings to hit the Phillips’ deck, “the ghostly “Ship Talk” from 1988, a mural-scaled work depicting a trio of dark and menacing sailing ships from a bygone era, triggered the evening’s most fervent bidding and sold to Stefan Ratibor of Gagosian Gallery for £884,500/$1,388,665 (est. £400-600,000). Jose Mugrabi was the underbidder. It was last offered at Sotheby’s New York in November 2012, where it bought in. Another Ruscha offering, a catchy 16-by-60-inch text painting, “She Slept With Two Wind-Up Alarm Clocks” from 1978, sold under estimate to Belgian dealer Paolo Vedovi for £362,500/$569,125 (est. £400-600,000).
“For Ruscha,” said Vedovi as he exited the salesroom, “it was quite a good buy.”
Katya Kazakina points out some of the night’s other big gainers:
Neo Rauch’s 1993 round painting, “Wald,” also inspired active bidding, selling for 278,500 pounds, more than twice its high estimate.
A 2007 painting by Jonas Wood “Fish Tank” sold for 158,500 pounds, more than twice its high estimate of 70,000 pounds. Auction prices for the popular Los Angeles-based artist have surged this year, reaching as high as $610,000 at Sotheby’s in May.
Phillips’ Opening Night Bucks Stiff Financial Market Winds (BLOUIN ARTINFO)
Ai Weiwei Record Leads $28.6 Million Sale at Phillips in London (Bloomberg Business)
Phillips London $28.6 M Contemporary Sale (artnet News)