At the latest round of auctions in London this week, Phillips held an evening sale of modern and contemporary art at its UK headquarters, bringing in a combined total of £17.5 million (21 million dollars) with fees.
The 33 lots on offer ranged from works by mid-career artists like Shara Hughes and Caroline Walker to less valuable pieces by historical figures like Cy Twombly. 31 works sold, including two withdrawn in advance. Six pieces, including examples from Flora Yukhnovich, Damien Hirst and Stanley Whitney, have been secured by irrevocable offers.
The total hammer price for the entire group before fees came in at £14.3m ($17.5m), landing at the bottom of its combined pre-sale estimate of 13 £.5m to £18.4m ($16.4m to $22.4m). The total with bounty was $21 million.
The energy for the hour-and-a-half sale, led by auctioneer Henry Highly, was higher than the sales led by its biggest competitors – Christie’s and Sotheby’s this week – whose sales are twice as high. More so than other London sales, which were anchored with the best lots of canonized male artists, the Phillips sale relied on some of the youngest artists in the market to build momentum with bidders.
While a few bidding wars have broken out, the auction only generated one new record – for Antonia Showering. Bidders from Canada, France, Lebanon, Hong Kong and London participated.
Phillips examines the market-wide feminist bias recently adopted in contemporary art auctions. The first nine lots in the Phillips sale were works by women.
At the start of the sale came a work by Lauren Quinn, a 29-year-old painter based in Los Angeles. Recent acquisitions of her work in museums in Miami and Beijing have put her on the map. Quinn’s mint green board Numbness (2019), which references biomorphic shapes, topped the house’s low £50,000 ($61,000) estimate. The attention of four bidders, including those from France and Lebanon, brought its final to £201,600 ($245,000).
Meanwhile, towards the end of the sale, a painting sold by London artist Flora Yukhnovich, whose reinterpretations of 18th-century Roccoco imagery have been in high demand since debuting at auction last year. I too am overflowing (2017) went for £1.7m ($2.1m) with premium. The result was more than five times higher than the low estimate. It fell short of its record £1.9 million (US$2.5 million) set at Christie’s in March.
The painting After (2016) by Caroline Walker sparked an outburst that lasted several minutes. Bidders competing for the monochrome green painting, which depicts a woman in a bathing suit reclining on an outdoor sofa, had moved it well beyond its $60,000 estimate, ultimately selling for five times that estimate for a price final of $315,000 ($383,188). ).
Elsewhere in the sale, the 2019 canvas by 27-year-old newcomer Anna Weyant bath time, which depicts a naked cherubic child leaning on a stool, sold for £226,800 ($274,000) with costs after responding to offers from Hong Kong and London. The result was three times the low estimate of £80,000.
Bidding started strong with the sale’s opening lot – the canvas by British painter Antonia Showering, 31 we get lost (2020), an orange and purple landscape with five figures. On the heels of his recent addition to London gallery Timothy Taylor, Showering saw a new auction record when the painting sold for £239,400 ($290,000) with premium, six times the estimate of 40,000 £. It was won by a telephone bidder with Marich.
One of the opening lots of the sale was wavy navy (2015) by Shara Hughes, who presented a feature film at the 2017 Whitney Biennale. Hughes has seen a recent surge in market with her works appearing in Hong Kong sales. This lot caught the eye of a bidder from Hong Kong, but fell below its low estimate of £200,000 ($243,207), speaking to a buyer on the phone with Phillips VP, Svetlana Marich.
Figurative painting by María Berrío The Horsemen II (2012) fared much better, for £809,000 ($981,560), six times the low estimate after bidders from London and Lebanon clashed. He went to a buyer on the phone with Phillips chairman Jean-Paul Engelen.
As usual, the top lots in the sale were pieces by male artists made decades ago. An untitled 1962 work on paper with doodles by Cy Twombly and a figure painting that Michelangelo Pistoletto produced between 1962 and 1967 sold for prices in line with their estimate of £2.7 million and £2 million sterling ($3.3 million to $2.4 million) respectively.