With the opening days of Frieze London also come the opening forays into the secondary market for the fall calendar for the British capital, with Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s each trying their hand at a market that has seen distinctly turbulent, albeit occasionally impressive results for what many are calling a sales slump. Coming off a sluggish summer with an above expectations at Phillips’ New, Now, Next sale of young artists in the past weeks, market spectators and the odd speculator are watching the Contemporary Evening Sales closely this week.
The week’s offerings begin Wednesday with a modest outing at Phillips, where the upstart auction house’s 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale continues to mix categories in search of broader market success. The sale, which combines earlier Modernist works with post-war and contemporary pieces, has enabled the auction house to contend with its larger cousins while keeping its operations sleek and efficient. This sale, however, rarely pushes back beyond World War II, and sees the auction house returning to fertile territory from past sales. Andy Warhol’s 20 Pink Maos, executed in a tirelessly repetitive pattern of pink paint, leads the evening with an estimate of £4,000,000 – £6,000,000. The Phillips sale also leans again on a Mark Bradford piece near the top of its offerings. Bradford’s work has performed well at the auction house in the past (recently setting a new sales record), and will look to repeat, bringing a pre-sale estimate of £1,500,000 – £2,000,000.
The sales return for a second evening at Christie’s the next night, where a 42-lot offering will look to stabilize an auction house that has seen a considerable number of departures and changing roles over the summer. Despite the shifting positions at the auction house, Christie’s has managed to put together a strong series of works, topped by a Bronzefrau Nr. 13, a small Thomas Schütte sculpture that carries an impressive price tag of £1,200,000 – £1,800,000. An Adrian Ghenie work from 2008 also sits near the top of the auction for an estimate of £1,000,000 – £1,500,000.
The week closes at Sotheby’s on Friday, where a 35-lot sale will close the week’s proceedings, boasting an impressive selection of works that, at first glance, appear to easily outpace Christie’s selection of lots. Of particular note is a striking Jean-Michel Basquiat piece at the top of the evening’s lots, which carries a £3,500,000 – £4,500,000 estimate as well as one of the more commanding arrangements of the evening, stretched out over a quartet of wooden poles. It’s joined by a vivid Gerhard Richter canvas from 1982, which carries an estimate of £3,500,000 – £4,500,000, as well as a Peter Doig piece, carrying an estimate of £2,800,000 – £3,500,000.