On Wednesday, Phillips carried out the London session of its New Now series, bringing in-demand primary market talent alongside market staples. The first contemporary sale to follow its marquee modern and contemporary auction staged on July 2, the London auction brought in a total of $4.6 million, placing 196 lots with buyers and realizing a solid 87% sell-through rate. Marking the highest figure achieved for a London New Now session—the sale offered a total of 226 works, slightly under last year’s volume which saw 247 lots on offer achieve $3.9 million.
Brooklyn-based painter, Eddie Martinez’s You Come Up Short from 2016 lead the sale’s offerings. The recent work came to auction for the first time—originally bought from a Copenhagen-based dealer—selling for £471,000 ($593,743) with buyer fees, more than doubling its pre-sale low estimate of £200,000. Second among the top ten lots was Ghanian-born painter, Amoako Boafo’s untitled portrait, made just last year, which went for £187,500 ($236,363) raking in ten times its low estimated value of $20,000. Irish painter, Genieve Figgis, whose macabre riffs on history paintings has landed her works among the most-reliable sellers in the middle market, Figgis’s Lady on a Bed competed in 2015 achieved £106,250 ($133,939), three times the pre-sale expectation of £30,000. Traded by a collector who acquired the work directly from the artist, Nina Chanel Abney’s 2016 abstract figural work was one of the reigning lots— reaching £75,000, against an estimate of £30,000. Abney’s work also came in far short of her current record made for the sale of Paradise Found in a Sotheby’s London sale in 2019 for $285,118.
The top sellers of the London sale displayed a strong buyer response to conservative estimates. Results for Martinez, Boafo and Figgis each surpassed their high estimates but still came in under each artist’s record price. Martinez, whose record stands at $2 million (HKD $15.7 million) for the sale of High Flying Bird in a Christie’s Hong Kong sale in November 2019, along with Figgis each have seen their markets driven up in recent seasons by interest concentrated in Asia. Boafo, who has seen nearly 20 recently-made works come up on the re-sale market in this season alone hasn’t reached a new benchmark since the Phillips New York New Now sale which set his record above $800,000. The artist recently announced a brand partnership with Dior Homme. The majority of works traded at auction in the past weeks have come from U.S. and European collections.
The sale also marks a shift in the demographics of the group’s top grossing artists. Last year’s leading lots in the equivalent sale staged in April were by blue-chip names like Damien Hirst and Urs Fischer. This year, a younger stable of artists in high demand, whose supplies are more controlled making them hard to acquire on the primary market are seeing aggressive interest.
In a statement following the successful sale, Simon Tovey, London’s Head of New Now embraced the successful season ends. “The result is a testament to the strength of the middle market and growing international demand for works by both emerging and established artists alike” said Tovey. “The broad variety of works and the emphasis on young artists offered in New Now demonstrates a healthy market across the board.”
Auction house executives have claimed the market’s constituents are now widely accustomed to digital collecting. Phillips backs the claim, reporting that 70% of the July 15 sale’s bidders participated online.
The auction also posted new records for emerging names like Iryna Akimova, Carlo Rea, and Marcus Jahmal all with works made within the last decade at prices ranging between £4,000 and £25,000.