Phillips’s $48.8 Million White Glove Sale Upped the Tempo for London’s Frieze Week Auctions

A good result for Phillips, but a cautious one for the market.

Danh Vo VJ Star (2010)
Photo: courtesy Phillips
Yoshimoto Nara <i> Missing in Action<7i> (2000) Sold for £1,986,500 <br> Photo: courtesy of Phillips

Yoshitomo Nara Missing in Action (2000) Sold for £1,986,500
Photo: courtesy of Phillips

Phillips upped the tempo for the Frieze week auctions yesterday evening with a 100 percent sold, or “white glove,” sale in which all 36 lots offered found buyers for a mid-estimate £31.5 million ($48.78 million). The reasons behind this were that estimates were not set overly high, that they did not put too much up for an audience still working its way through several art fairs, and that—with the help of an expanding team of experienced experts—they found buyers for everything even if more than half of them came in the shape of third party guarantors. For Hugues Joffre, a post-war art expert who has joined Phillips from Christie’s and who took the sale, it was “a great welcome by Phillips” for him in his first sale as auctioneer there. After the sale, art advisor, Heinrich zu Hohenlohe, summed it up as “definitely a step in the right direction for Phillips.”

The backbone of the sale consisted of 18 works from the collection of celebrity dermatologist, Fredric S Brandt MD, who died by suicide in April. To secure the collection ahead of Sotheby’s or Christie’s, Phillips had to find third party guarantors for the collection. With a low estimate of £8.1 million, the Brandt lots fetched £9.4 million (sale prices include buyer’s premium, estimates do not). Highlights of the collection included a small looping drip painting by Christopher Wool which sold for a mid-estimate £2.6 million to art adviser, Philippe Segalot; a sizeable painting of a wide-eyed child, Missing in Action, (2000), by Yoshitomo Nara, which sold above estimate for a record £1.99 million; and an all blue canvas referencing Yves Klein by Rudolf Stingel, which sold above estimate for £1.9 million to New York dealer, Joe Nahmad, bidding against Old Master dealer, Fabrizio Moretti.

Danh Vo <i> VJ Star </i> (2010) <br> Photo: courtesy Phillips

Danh Vo VJ Star (2010) Sold for £602,500
Photo: courtesy Phillips

Other notable purchases were made by dealer Stefan Simchowitz, wearing his trademark hat, who bought a Tauba Auerbach crumpled paper painting on the low estimate for £1.4 million, and by Daniella Luxembourg, who paid a record £3.8 million pounds for Constitution 1V (2013), a large palimpsest of letters by Mark Bradford that had been estimated at £2 million.

Mark Bradford <i>Constitution IV </i>(2013) <br>Photo: courtesy of Phillips

Mark Bradford Constitution IV (2013) Sold for £3,778,500
Photo: courtesy of Phillips

Another record was paid when a single phone bid secured a gold leaf and cardboard painting referencing the US flag, by Danh Vo, for £602,500. Phillips had a financial interest in this so the sale didn’t feel too comfortable. In spite of the sell-out figures and a near to packed saleroom, Phillips still had to deal with the fact that most people were there to watch—nervously assessing the market after New York’s under par September sales. An Urs Fischer set of four stainless steel sculptures, Horse Proud (2010), had sold two years ago for $785,000 but now sold for only £362,500 or $524,000.

Cy Twombly <i> Untitled</i> (2006)  Sold for £7,922,500<br> Photo: Courtesy of Phillips

Cy Twombly Untitled (2006) Sold for £7,922,500
Photo: Courtesy of Phillips

A medium size late Twombly of red looped brush strokes had been sold in New York four years ago for $9 million dollars but now sold for £7.9 million or $12.2 million, just below the estimate and leaving a minimal return for the seller for an artist whose market has generally been going up by much more than that in the last few years.

Overall it was a good result for Phillips, but a cautious one for the market.

For more London auction reports see also: Subdued Bidding at Christie’s and De Pury’s Joint Sale of the Lambert Collection.

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