With Thursday drawing to a close in London, the final night of Contemporary auctions was in the bag, as Philips capped an impressive outing, bringing a final tally of £97 million that made it the most successful and high-grossing sale in auction house history. The sale saw some particularly strong results over the course of 50 lots, ultimately hitting several impressive auction tallies on the way to the week’s conclusion. Marking another major statement for an auction that has increasingly staked out a space for itself in the higher ends of the secondary market, Phillips planted a flag this evening, selling several works at prices that could compete with either Sotheby’s or Christie’s premier pieces.
The sale began in strong fashion with a string of competitive lots, including a Wolfgang Tillmans piece that doubled estimates to a final price of £465,000, while an Allen Jones piece also doubled its estimate to achieve £705,000. But it was a small-scale Henri Matisse sculpture several lots later that first upped the bar, doubling estimates for a final of £14,859,000. But the fireworks were only starting as a Pablo Picasso piece from 1932 also smashed estimates, shooting upwards on multiple bids to reach a final of £41,859,000. The highly competitive bidding seemed only to spur collectors on towards higher prices later in the evening, and another high point came shortly after, when a Mark Bradford piece topped the sales estimate to a final of £8,671,500, and a new world record for the artist at auction.
Following this burst of activity, the sale pushed onwards, devoid of much of the major sales notched earlier, but still maintaining a steady pace. A gruesome Georg Baselitz met estimate for £1,929,000, while an electroformed panel by Rudolf Stingel matched estimates to a final of £5,746,500. A Sean Scully at lot 35 was also a strong sale, doubling estimates to reach a final of £1,149,000. The sale drew quickly to a close following these lots however, as the rest of the evening’s sales were dotted with quick bidding and unsold works.
The sales leave ample space for improvement for the major auction houses, but a picture of the high-end of the blue chip market is emerging as one of consistency and continued growth. It should be interesting to see how this picture changes in the coming months.
— D. Creahan
Phillips Contemporary Evening Sale [Exhibition Site]