AO Auction Recap – Phillips Contemporary Evening Sale, May 15th, 2014

May 16th, 2014

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange) (1955), via Art Observed
Mark Rothko, Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange) (1955) which sold for $50,000,000 at Phillips, via Art Observed

The Phillips Contemporary Evening Sale has concluded, wrapping up what has been a whirlwind week of contemporary art sales with a briskly-paced, 49-lot sale that achieved moderately strong results, while twelve works were either withdrawn or went unsold.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1981), via Art Observed
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1981), via Art Observed

Similar to the previous evening’s proceedings at Sotheby’s, sales went more or less by the book, with major works selling inside their estimate, with minimal competition except for a few exceptional lots.  The much-anticipated Rothko, already sporting a $50 million-plus guarantee, lived up to pre-sale estimates, going for the final price of $56,165,000.  The collaborative painting between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat also performed to expectations, selling for $11,365,000, just inside its $10-$15 million estimate.  Gerhard Richter’s blurry photorealist painting performed similarly, lipping over the $8 million high estimate for a final price of $8,005,000.  A solo Andy Warhol from his flowers series also performed as anticipated, bringing in $10,245,000.

Jeff Koons, Popples (1988), via Art Observed
Jeff Koons, Popples (1988), via Art Observed

Several sales also earned new artist auction records this evening.  Tauba Auerbach’s 2011 fold piece beat out its $1.2 million high estimate to bring in a final price and new record of $1,805,000 for the artist, and Dana Schutz’s vivid portrait doubled its high estimate to set the auction bar at $605,000.

Dana Schutz, Reformers (2004), via Phillips
Dana Schutz, Reformers (2004), via Phillips

Among the works that failed to attract a buyer were a 1985 Dan Flavin light work, as well as a red and blue Roy Lichtenstein sculpture, estimated at $2.5 – $3 million.  A Warhol quadruple self-portrait saw a similar fate, failing to attract a buyer and missing out on its $4 – $6 million estimate.

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Zenith (1985), via Art Observed
Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Zenith (1985), via Art Observed

With the week of auctions wrapped, the market seems to be just as strong as it has been over the past several years, with considerable power seemingly held by Christie’s increasingly dominant Contemporary operations.  Its If I Live sale Monday effective forced Phillips from its lead position, and set the tone for the week, raising nearly $900 million in its two evening auctions.  While both Sotheby’s and Phillips performed quite well, and saw strong results for their most highly valued lots, the firepower at Christie’s should prove difficult to overcome.

Andy Warhol, Flowers (1964), via Art Observed
Andy Warhol, Flowers (1964), via Art Observed

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Phillips Contemporary Art Evening Auction [Phillips]
Rothko Painting Fetches $56.2 Million at Phillips Auction [Bloomberg]