Led by a Joan Mitchell and the Karshan Collection, Phillips’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale Takes $26.4 Million in London
Christopher Wool and Günther Förg were other stars of the evening.
Phillips was not pulling out any stops for Frieze week. The auction house’s £16.4–24.2 million estimate for this evening’s main sale was pretty much average for a part one sale over the last six years, and it hit exactly mid-target at £20.2 million ($26.4 million).
The evening’s top price came for an unusually formalistic abstract painting by Joan Mitchell, whose market has been on a roll lately. Perch and Twirl (1973) sold above estimate for £3.12 million ($4 million) to Phillips’s Korean representative, which may suggest the global appeal this artist has achieved. (Prices include buyer’s premium; estimates do not.)
Coming in next was a Christopher Wool painting. It had also sold at Phillips New York for $3.2 million back in 2015. But presumably it had gone unpaid for, because here it was, back on the block with a sign that indicated that Phillips now owned it.
The price of £2.5 million ($3.2 million) paid by dealer Inigo Philbrick was above estimate, but basically only got the auction house out of jail.
A tall, two-toned monochrome by Günther Förg provided one of the best returns of the evening. Having been bought in 2011 in Vienna for €43,000, it sold tonight for a double-estimate £393,000 (or $515,754).
An even better gain was realized by Yayoi Kusama’s small 1999 painting, from her “Infinity Nets” series. It had cost the seller $19,200 in New York back in 2005. Now estimated at £400,000–600,000, it sold for £405,000 ($607,000). That marks a tremendous run-up in value for the Japanese art star.
The biggest chunk of the 36-lot sale was the collection of the late Howard Karshan, an American film rights negotiator who was married to the artist Linda Karshan and spent a lot of time in London. He had been a Patron of the New Art at Tate.
The Karshan collection was guaranteed and included two Gerhard Richter paintings, but these sold at below estimates. (Hände—pictured above—took £2,049,000, or $2,689,000, on an estimate of £2–3 million.) A Twombly drawing from 1959 fared better, selling for a double-estimate £1.15 million ($1.5 million) to a phone bidder who outbid US dealer Neal Meltzer.
Also guaranteed, but not part of the Karshan trove, was a 1984 photograph by Barbara Kruger. It was underbid by art adviser Nicolai Frahm before selling for a mid-estimate £225,000 ($295,000).
Confirming Phillips growing stature at the lower end of the contemporary market, its part two day sale, combined with an innovative auction for contemporary ceramics, realized another $14 million—the highest total for a day sale in London.
All in all, a solid if unspectacular series for this third-place auctioneer.
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