On Thursday, Phillips staged its marquee contemporary evening sale with a night of superior results led by staple talents like Joan Mitchell and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The sale comes on the heels of a five-hour-long global evening sale livestreamed at Sotheby’s three days earlier that garnered a total in excess of $360 million, securing the market long-awaited reassurance following the pandemic’s overhaul of the traditional auction schedule. The evening’s hour-long sale brought 25 lots led by auctioneer Henry Highley, and saw an overall 100 percent sell-through; the auction realized a total of $41 million, meeting the high estimate. The day sale total rang in at $10.2 million, sold 87 percent by lot.
The leading lot of the night was Joan Mitchell’s canvas Noël, featuring the artist’s thick, impasto drip field scheme from the early 1960s, consigned from an American collection. The painting met its reserve at $8 million quickly, but drew only six bids to meet its estimate of $9.5 million at the hammer ($11.1 million with buyer’s premium). In a press conference following the auction, Robert Manley dubbed the work “an auctioneer’s dream.” He noted that two bidders ultimately competed for the work, calling the end result a “knockout painting, for a knockout price.” The historic work came to market after nearly three decades in the same hands. The seller bought it in 1995 and the Phillips sale marks its auction debut. The painting’s outstanding result follows the sale of the storied Ginny Williams collection at Sotheby’s that reopened the market with aggressive remote bidding on Monday, bringing in new records for female postwar stars like Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler, who have long been undervalued compared to their male contemporaries.Continue Reading