This report on the Phillips's market re-opening Evening sale in July 2020 by Colin Gleadell is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Some things don’t change, even in a pandemic. As ever, Phillips piled into the contemporary art auction season last week with the smallest sale, the greatest emphasis on younger, up-and-coming artists, and the largest percentage of guarantees.
The success and record prices for the newer artists has already been listed by AMM (July 2), but what about the rest? With its niche position at the cutting edge, Phillips has experienced some reluctance by sellers to part with higher value blue chip and historic 20th century art. Chairman Ed Dolman has always said it was necessary for Phillips to extend guarantees to sellers to get high value property in for sale and so compete with the ruling duopoly. In this sale 12 works were guaranteed (i.e., half the lots), though not the hot young artists, with a combined low estimate of $24.4 million. That’s 84.3% of the low estimate value for the whole sale which was $29.4 million. This guarantee percentage is high by any standards for a mixed owner sale. Regardless of how profitable or not the sale will have been (the total hammer price of the guaranteed lots was $24.8 million and Dolman said he was happy with the results), it helps to explain how they achieved their $41 million ‘white glove sale.’ (Unless otherwise stated, estimates do not include the buyer’s premium, but sold prices do).
Away from the bullish prices paid for relative newcomers Titus Kaphar, Matthew Wong, Amoako Boafo et al, the market was showing signs of restraint. Banksy’s unique painting, Monkey Poison, 2004, had a hefty $1.8/2.5 million estimate and sold on the low estimate to a solitary bid, presumably on behalf of Phillips which guaranteed the painting, from Miety Heiden to bring $2 million – the second highest auction price on record for Banksy. Certainly, it lacked that element of surprise which often accompanies his work as Phillips had exhibited it in a Banksy exhibition staged in Hong Kong in 2018 and then New York early this year.
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