With another auction in the books, Phillips has rounded out a pair of high-profile evening sales in the British Capital of London this week, running through a well-managed auction that ultimately capped aa strong tally of £34,811,000, with all works selling.
The auction house seemed determined to move pieces with this sale, often hammering below estimate and taking a slight markdown on the piece to get the sales made. The result was an auction that perhaps felt a bit choppy at times, but solid enough to allay any immediate concerns about market strength. The message Phillips seemed to be pushing was one that the market was open for business, and that sales come over figures.
As a result, the sale moved quickly and deliberately, each lot finding its buyers and moving with little hesitation. Chief among these was Martin Kippenberger’s self-portrait from his Raft of the Medusa series, a striking piece that shot out of the blocks but sold rather quickly for a final of £8,446,500. A Francis Bacon interior was also a decisive sale, hammering just below the low estimate to reach a final of £3,249,000. By contrast artist Sean Scully was a rare surprise, pushing past his £800k high to set a new auction record at £1,209,000 for a 2014 canvas.
Given the recent state of the market, and the events of the past week, it would seem that collectors just might be digging deeper for treasures in the past few weeks, giving up on marquee blue-chip lots in favor of lower prices for artists long overlooked by the bright spotlight of the marquee evening sales. Or perhaps there’s just less of these works to go around, the recent glut of sales causing a sell-off that just now might be running out of steam. In either event, it should be interesting to see how the major houses retool for the fall season, making a play for a market that seems to be in a state of recalibration.
— D. Creahan
Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Sale [Phillips]