Phillips Contemporary Evening Sale Reaps $52 Million
Robert Ryman and Willem de Kooning are the golden boys of the lively evening.
Phillips held the final evening contemporary sale of the season tonight, realizing $51.9 million, compared with expectations of $46.1–68.2 million. Of 47 lots on offer—one was withdrawn—39 (or 83 percent) were sold. By value the auction was 89 percent sold. Auctioneer Alexander Gilkes presided over the lively salesroom and kept the proceedings moving at a rapid, efficient clip with his elegant yet seemingly effortless style.
As usual, Phillips stuck to the niche it has carved out in recent years in the contemporary sector, offering a mix of up-and-coming young stars like Alex Israel, as well as lower-priced works by established blue chip names like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Tom Wesselmann.
The highest priced lot—when it was carried into the room, Mr Gilkes referred to it as “the Camelot” of the sale—was a white Robert Ryman oil painting, Hour (2001), that arrived with a $5–7 million estimate and sold for $5.2 million with premium. The Ryman achieved the highest price of the sale.
Also landing among the highest lots was a later Willem de Kooning painting, Untitled XVIII (1984), an oil on canvas that was estimated at $4–6 million and sold for $4.9 million with premium. It last appeared at auction in November 2011, when it sold for an under-estimate of $3.4 million on expectations of $4.5–6.5 million.
An identical estimate ($4–6 million) was in place for Wade Guyton’s Untitled (2006), an Epson Ultrachrome inkjet on linen. It sold for a premium-inclusive $4.6 million to a phone bidder via a Phillips specialist.
Also among tonight’s top sellers was a vibrantly colored oil painting by Hans Hofmann, Orchestral Dominance in Green (1954), with an estimate of $2–3 million that sold spot-on for $2.4 million with premium.
Among buyers seated in the room, private dealer Philippe Ségalot bought the third lot of the evening, Danh Vō’s large six-part copper floor sculpture, a segment of We the People (detail) (2011), for $629,000 compared with an estimate of $300,000–500,000.
And Swiss dealer Doris Ammann was the buyer of Martin Kippenberger’s large painting Untitled (1984), fending off competition from a phone bidder to win it for $2.3 million on an estimate of $1.5–2.5 million.
A disappointment and perhaps a surprise one at that was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Bird as Buddha (1984), which was estimated at $4–6 million and failed to sell, having only reached a minimum bid in the room of $2.7 million.
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