On Wednesday, the fall edition of Phillips’s “New Now” sale, a closely watched biannual auction series with a focus on emerging artists, realized a total of $5.8 million with buyer’s premium across 185 lots. Without premium, the sale hammered at $4.6 million, putting it at the low end of the pre-sale estimate range of $4 million–$5.8 million. The sell-through rate was a solid 82 percent by lot.
The result marks a drop from the $7.9 million achieved in the spring edition of “New Now” this past March. But it is a stark increase from the fall 2019 “New Now” sale, which totaled $5.2 million across 173 lots.
A third of the lots sold above the high estimate. The sale realized auction records for Firelei Báez, Gina Beavers, Caitlin Keogh, Marcus Jahmal, Raimonds Staprans, Armin Boehm, Mauro Pericchetti, and Rodney McMillian.
Auctioneer and Phillips head of photographs Sarah Krueger led the live sale from the house’s New York salesroom, fielding remote bids from colleagues being live-streamed across several monitors. Five works were withdrawn before the start of the sale.
The top-selling lots were by a select few emerging artists who had strong runs in the summer evening sales held at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips. The top lot was market star Amoako Boafo’s Lighter (2018). The neutral-ground oil on paper work featuring a seated subject drew fast-paced bidding. Before hammering at $220,000, bidders moved up the price, and it eventually went to a phone bidder with Phillips specialist Sam Mansour for $325,000 with buyer’s premium, making eight times more than its conservative low estimate of $40,000. The seller purchased it just over a year ago at the artist’s Los Angeles showcase at Roberts Project.
The sale opener—and the second highest lot of the day—was Matthew Wong’s Blue Tree (2016), which sold for $300,000, six times its low estimate of $50,000. It was won by an advance bidder against competition from bidders in Taiwan and Portugal.
Works by other market darlings saw high returns. Titus Kaphar’s Study of the Suitor: Harper Caldwell Jr. (2011) sold for $187,500. This past July, the artist’s auction record moved up to $350,000 during a Christie’s contemporary day sale. Painter Genevieve Figgis’s Boat House (2015) sold for $162,000 against an estimate of $40,000. Claire Tabouret’s The School Smocks (2016) went for $125,000, hammering at its low estimate of $100,000. Yue Minjun’s 2003 sculpture Contemporary Terracotta Warriors sold for $106,250, bringing the lot beyond its high estimate of $90,000.
Elsewhere in the sale, Richard Prince’s book cover sold for $100,000, but failed to hammer at its low estimate. In the March sale, another Prince untitled book cover sold for $300,000.
A taste for figurative painting was evident in the March “New Now” sale, and that was also glimpsed in Wednesday’s edition. Oregon-based, Accra-born figurative painter Otis Quaicoe’s Old Town Boy (2019) saw spirited bidding, with clients quickly moving the hammer price up past the high estimate of $50,000. It ultimately sold to a bidder in China for $137,500, more than four times the low estimate of $30,000. This is the second work by Quaicoe to come to auction, following Phillips sale of Shade of Black (2018) for $250,000 in the houses’s July 20th century art evening sale.
Kenny Scharf’s Jung UL (2004) went for $125,000, doubling its high estimate of $60,000. Nicholas Party’s Untitled (Landscape) saw advanced interest and sold to a New York bidder for $120,000. One of the few works in the sale being resold was George Condo’s Accumulated Head (1990), which made $62,000, selling for four times its estimate of $15,000. It last sold at Christie’s New York in 1992 for just $2,200.
Other artists with lively sales on the primary market saw buyers’ attention. Katherine Bradford’s Swimming Pool Long (2017) drew advance interest, with bids coming in from Europe and the U.S. A German buyer won the painting for $40,000. Bradford’s Mother’s Lap sold for $45,000 just last week at Art Basel’s online fair “OVR:2020.” Raimonds Staprans’s sleek landscape Naxos #7 (2006) sold for $137,500, against an estimate of $40,000. Bidding for Firelei Báez’s Megan (lugar a dudas), 2017, opened at $10,000 with two tied advance bidders. It sold for $46,250, more than four times its low estimate of $10,000, setting a new record for the artist. Arcmanoro Niles’s Homegrown (2018) sold for $23,750, eight times its estimate of $3,000. This marked Nile’s auction debut.
Blue-chip names failed to spark interest. Ai Weiwei’s work Surviellance Camera failed to find a buyer at an estimate of $100,000; Yayoi Kusama’s New York sold for $55,000, meeting the high estimate but failing to impress; and Robert Rauschenberg’s National Symphony Ball passed at a bid of $95,000.