On Tuesday, Phillips closed its first multi-category online sale, REFRESH:RELOAD, staged at its Hong Kong headquarters, offering a range of 186 luxury and contemporary art lots. The sale saw a 90 percent sell-through rate, bringing in a total $2.4 million (HKD 18,569,125), the highest result ever for an online auction at Phillips. The digital sale came ahead of the house’s upcoming Hong Kong sale series featuring offerings across jewelry, contemporary art, and design scheduled to take place July 8 through 10.
Among the leading lots that crossed boundaries between hype and fine art was Four Foot Dissected Companion (Grey), by KAWS, which realized $104,827 (HKD 812,500), well surpassing its $51,300–$76,900 (HKD 400,000–HKD 600,000) estimate.
A Rolex stainless steel chronograph wristwatch circa 1980 drew 11 bids to take in $88,700 (HKD 687,500) on an estimate of $38,709–$64,515. A pair of emerald and diamond ear pendants by Graff attracted 15 bids, driving the final price to $48,387 (HKD 375,000) twice the presale $23,100 (HKD 180,000) high estimate. Banksy’s Happy Choppers realized $38,709 (HKD 300,000), three times the presale high estimate. Gerhard Richter’s abstract Flow P15 also saw intense competition that brought a total of 54 bids before going for twice the presale high estimate. A 2008 lithograph diptych, Cosmic Girls, by Hong Kong sales mainstay Yoshitomo Nara, featuring his signature child protagonist, went for $17,741 (HKD 137,500), more than tripling its high estimate of $2,600–$5,100(HKD 20,000–HKD 40,000).
Paintings by female emerging artists fresh to the market met expectations, as did luxury offerings. A painting by Irish contemporary painter Genieve Figgis, Gentleman Caller, from 2014, went for $72,577 (HKD 562,500), meeting its high estimate; and Katherine Bernhardt’s 2019 canvas Fake Love, acquired by the seller from Xavier Hufkens, sold for $80,641 (HKD 625,000), soaring past an estimate of $38,500–$51,300 (HKD 300,000–HKD 400,000). The sale of Fake Love nearly matched the artist’s existing auction record of $81,250, set in 2018 at Sotheby’s New York when PLANTAINS, BANANAS & TOILET PAPER doubled its high estimate of $40,000. Claire Tabouret’s work on paper, My Waves, from 2019, went for $45,159 (HKD 350,000) to best its estimate of $38,500 (HKD 300,000). Just this past May, Tabouret’s acrylic on panel Nathan with a Purple Hat sold for more than twice its high estimate in a Sotheby’s contemporary art day sale online to establish a new record price of $81,250.
Phillips also reported a record of 628 registrants, the highest number of participants for an online sale the auction house has seen to date. Other figures reported by Phillips suggest that the retail-friendly format is attracting a new class of bidders, with 56 percent of the sale’s buyers completely new to Phillips and 42 percent under the age of 40.
A series of recent sales staged in Asia saw auction houses experimenting with smaller-scale curated events to draw in clients. This sale at Phillips brought Cartier and KAWS together in a session that capitalized on the virtual format to which millennial collectors are already widely accustomed.
Contemporary art editions with iconic brand names perform consistently well in a growing era of art market e-commerce. Nara’s Little Wanderer, a molded-plastic edition produced by CEREALART Projects, went for $3,548 (HKD 27,500), more than tripling its high estimate of $1,000 (HKD 8,000). A set of KAWS x Dior dolls, a miniature edition inspired by Dior creative director Kim Jones’s Dior Homme Spring/Summer 2019 campaign, went for $35,483 (HKD 275,000), to beat out its high estimate of $28,200 (HKD 220,000).