By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Phillips’s Modern and Contemporary Evening Sale

Let the numbers tell the story.

The room during the Phillips modern and contemporary art evening sale. Courtesy of Phillips auction house.

Last night, Phillips sold what may become the most expensive artwork of the marquee May auctions in New York: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 Untitled (ELMAR). It was a big win for the house, since it usually lags behind the Sotheby’s-Christie’s duopoly—and since these are such uncertain times in the art market.

The sale of the Basquiat influenced the night’s total significantly, as did the withdrawal of a portrait by Pablo Picasso that was estimated to sell for between $12 million and $18 million. While those two lots shifted outcomes in opposing ways, the sale of many smaller lots steadied the waters. Below, we’ve laid out how the evening fared from a numerical perspective.

Total Sales After Fees: $86.3 million

Total of Equivalent Sale Last Year: $70 million 

Hammer Total: $72.3 million 

Top Seller: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (ELMAR), 1982, for $46.5 million 

Lots on Offer: 28

Lots Withdrawn: 2 

Lots Sold: 25 

Sell-through Rate: 80%

Sell-through Rate After Withdrawals: 86%

Presale Low Estimate: $90 million 

Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: $75 million

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: -$17.7 million

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate (revised after withdrawals): -$2.7 million

Lots Guaranteed: 14 

Lots With House Guarantees: 0 

Lots With Third-Party Guarantees: 14 

Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: $13 million 

Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: $65.2 million (75.5% percent of total presale low estimate) 

Quote of the Night: “We are proud to have sold the highest estimated lot of the week—Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (ELMAR), which realized $46.5 million,” Jean-Paul Engelen, Phillips’s president for the Americas and worldwide co-head of modern and contemporary art, said. “The sale we assembled here tonight marks a 24 percent increase from the previous year and is a testament to the market’s trust in Phillips.”

Lasting Memory: The many raised eyebrows around the room when the auctioneer announced that lot 17, the Pablo Picasso that was estimated to sell for between $12 million and $18 million, had been withdrawn.  

Parting Shot: In these difficult times, Basquiat’s strong hold on the art market remains firm.

Next Sale Up: Sotheby’s modern evening auction, tonight at its York Avenue headquarters.

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