As auction houses continue to expand engagement through digital platforms, themed contemporary sales are at the center of the shift. Last week, Phillips closed bidding for two new online contemporary auctions based in London and New York Desktop and Current Mood – each series was a new addition to their evolving digital segment, both offering under 50 lots, comprising works by emerging contemporary artists in addition to pieces of design. The Desktop sale brought a total of £376,875 placing 35 lots with buyers, an 88% sell-through rate. It’s New York counterpart Current Mood grossed a total of $332,125 landing between its pre-sale estimate with 25 lots seeing an overall 89% sell-through rate.
Among the highlights of the sale was a large canvas by Eddie Martinez’s titled Bay Area from 2018 which reached £125,000 meeting its high estimate of £120,000, making it the highest achieving work to sell in a London online sale. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #275 failed to meet its low estimate of £40,000 going for a total of £37,500. Elizabeth Peyton’s work on paper Prince Harry sold at its low estimate of £25,000 as well as Hernan Bas’s group of three works on paper from 2001 which went for £15,000.
Although the top results reflect a cooled down market for emerging art, the design-edition-painting medley format is a new test for the market subdued under pandemic restrictions. As the internet’s art mall expands and collecting category lines blur, tightly curated hybrid campaigns are the new fix. When higher value works start to surface in these online sales—and private offerings expand simultaneously—the collecting base will finally put the experiment to the test.
Katherine Lukacher and Charlotte Gibbs, Co-Heads of Phillips’ Online-Only Sales said “in the short space of a few weeks we have accelerated our digital capabilities and are welcoming a growing number of collectors to Phillips. We are also seeing increasing price points.”
Typical of the mid-season contemporary sales, the higher hammer ratio was seen at the lower price segment for familiar bluechip names. A small-scale untitled George Condo painting from 1994 doubled its high estimate of £7,000 and went for £15,000, while Nicholas Party’s lithograph Portrait with a Mustache sold for four times its low estimate realizing a selling price of £10,625.
Current Mood placed a host of works by emerging contemporary artists in the five-figure range with new buyers. Rob Pruitt’s large-scale rainbow scheme painting from 2013 titled hmmmm acquired by the seller from Gavin Brown’s enterprise, met its high estimate going for $43,750. Djordje Ozbolt’s 2011 Ay Caramba—featuring the artist’s mix between Old Master painting and popular culture— went for $40,000 at for four times its pre-sale low estimate. Mel Bochner’s text painting the featuring the recognizable Blah Blah Blah register doubled its low estimate selling eventually for a total of $27,000. The remaining top lots in the group by primary market names like Marc Newson, Sarah Morris and Guy Yanai sold for below $20,000.