Christie’s Strong-arms Phillips into Moving Its May Evening Sale

Phillips has pushed back its major evening contemporary art sale to May 15. What prompted this 11th-hour change? Sources say it was Christie’s addition of expert Loic Gouzer’s small, albeit star-packed contemporary sale “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday” to the busy roster of evening week auctions.

A report in the New York Times late last month described 33-year old Gouzer’s sale, which is chock full of blue chip contemporary names like Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Dan Colen, Christopher Wool, and On Kawara, as aiming to “capture the raw angst” of his generation.

That “angst” was clearly being felt at Phillips which, at the time, had its sale slated for the same night. The one-hour difference in auction start times (6 p.m. for Christie’s and 7 p.m. for Phillips) left virtually no downtime for collectors to shuttle between the sales. At the time, Phillips CEO Michael McGinnis insisted that the auctioneer was “sticking to the 7 o’clock slot on Monday night. I respect their [Christie’s] position, and I hope they respect ours.” But the tight timing was obviously a major concern: “ What I’ll do is organize transportation, so it will be easy for people to make it to our sale,” he told the Times.

Evidently, the house thought twice about moving forward with its original sale date. Phillips specialists were not immediately available for comment. Said one art adviser of the reshuffle: “It shows ruthless aggression to gain market share.”

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