Earlier this month with an evening sale totaling $41 million in revenue, Phillips proved that demand for modern and contemporary art was still high despite the coronavirus pandemic and its ensuing economic slump. Now, Phillips will look to keep up with that demand by offering up a group of work by cutting-edge contemporary artists—at lower price points.
For the second iteration of its online-only “HEATWAVE” sale, which first launched a year ago and achieved a total of £377,688 ($483,232), Phillips will present 75 lots by in-demand primary market artists to emerging buyers, at prices ranging from £200 to £50,000. That’s a sharp contrast to its blue-chip June evening sale, which was led by $11.1 million painting by Joan Mitchell and a $9.25 million work by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The sale also comes on the heels of Phillips London New Now sale in mid-July which realized a total of $4.6 million, the highest result realized for the U.K. session to date.
Now open for bidding and running until July 30, among the leading artists featured in “HEATWAVE” is Ghanian-born, Vienna-based figurative painter Amoako Boafo, whose market ascent in recent seasons has established him among the best performers in contemporary art auctions. New to the market is Boafo’s early self-portrait, Diary III, completed just four years ago in 2016, shortly after he moved to Austria and consigned from a private collection in Europe.
Consigned by a private European collection, Diary III has so far drawn 10 bids, which has already moved the work past its high estimate of £50,000 ($64,000) to £55,000 ($70,300) at press time. The world’s top three auction houses—Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips—have traded nearly 20 works by Boafao, all of which have hammered at prices well above their pre-sale expectations. The sustained international demand for the young painter follows Boafo’s record-setting sale in Phillips “New Now“ sale in February, where his pool-bound portrait, The Lemon Bathing Suit, sold for more than $800,000, or 22 times its low estimate.
Now that the season’s leading evening sales have reassured the market that collectors are still hungry for art, carving out channels to stimulate buying interest among emerging collectors is a priority. “‘HEATWAVE’ marks another step forward as Phillips continues to invest in digital initiatives that expand buying opportunities for the growing number of new and existing clients who bid online,” Charlotte Gibbs, Phillips’s head of online sales in London, said. “The response from collectors has been enthusiastic and we are excited for what is to come as the sale continues.”
Gibbs added that this new edition of “HEATWAVE” comes as more and more collectors begun comfortable with buying online and demand for more art only increases. “It is important to us that we meet the needs of every kind of collector, whether established or just beginning their collection, and that means presenting collectors with a carefully curated variety of cross category and cutting-edge contemporary works at a range of price points” said Gibbs.
Swiss artist Nicolas Party, known for his graphic style and stark palette, has also seen active demand this auction season. On offer in the Phillips sale is a group of three methodically painted stones, rendered in trompe-l’œil to appear as slabs of meat. With a pre-sale estimate of £20,000–£30,000, the work is among the highest priced lots. The stones were last shown publicly in Party’s Glasgow exhibition at the Modern Institute in 2010.
Phillips has also brought some highly sought-after names on primary market. Those artists include Avery Singer, Julie Curtiss, and Lisa Brice, each of whom, according to Gibbs tend to sell-out quickly via dealers.
Surrealist-inspired market darling Curtiss’s 2017 Chemtrails, depicting the head of a red-haired female figure, puffing a cigarette is among the works on offer at a low value of £2,000 ($2,558). The work was acquired by the consignor from New York’s 106 Green gallery. Another work with a short holding period is a 2016 untitled painting by established American artist Nina Chanel Abney. The piece, which has drawn early bids and is currently at £3,000 ($3,838) at press time against a £5,000 high estimate, was purchased at group show staged in Copenhagen titled “GOT IT FOR CHEAP” in 2016.
Alongside the coveted market stars seeing aggressive buyer interest in the past year, Phillips has also brought photographs by heavyweights like Nan Goldin, Robert Longo, and Nobuyoshi Araki priced conservatively between £2,000 to 5,000 ($2,558 to $6,397). Goldin’s widely known Sicilian image, Guido Floating, is one one example embodying the sales’ theme centered around the essence of summer, according to Gibbs.