Phillips’ Latest ‘New Now’ Sale Sees Dismal 51 Percent Sell-Through Rate

It's a less than stellar start to the week.

Nate Lowman Orders From Corporate (Randall's Island?) (2014)
Image: Courtesy of Phillips.
Jean Michel Basquiat Untitled (1983) Image: Courtesy of Phillips.

Jean Michel Basquiat Untitled (1983)
Image: Courtesy of Phillips.

Phillips, which has cultivated a reputation for being the first auction house stop for young artists on the rise in the gallery system, held its latest niche New Now sales on February 29 to coincide with New York Armory Week.

While achieving some solid and record prices for young names, the overall sell-through rate was a painful 51 percent by lot, and 60 percent by value. For its evening sale, the total including premium was $1.7 million, missing the low presale estimate of $2.8 million. (Of 23 lots offered, 13 were sold.) The day sale took $2.7 million, again missing the low estimate, of $3.8 million. (Of 266 lots offered, 131, or, 49 percent, were sold.)

This disappointing results follow a sobering auction season in London this past month. While observers continue to debate whether the lower totals and more reserved activity reflect a pause or more serious downturn, one thing seems certain: buyers have put a serious lid on speculative buying and flipping.

“This is a changing market and on the day of the sale we saw a short pause for breath in an area which has seen huge growth in recent years,” Rebekah Bowling, head of New Now at Phillips, writes in an email to artnet News. “With a longer-term view, the market is still in good health and buying is more rational.”

At the evening sale, works with mostly six-figure estimates by Danh Vo, Mark Grotjahn, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, John Baldessari, Ugo Rondinone, and Hiroshi Sugimoto failed to sell.

On a better note, Phillips posted auction records for younger art stars including Petra Cortright, Trevor Paglen, and Alex Da Corte. The top-selling lot, an untitled 1983 oil stick on paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat (above), more than doubled its high $120,000 estimate to fetch $257,000 with premium. But such breakaways were few and far between.

Alex Israel Untitled (Flat)(2011) Image: Courtesy of Phillips

Alex Israel Untitled (Flat)(2011)
Image: Courtesy of Phillips

Alex Israel‘s Untitled (Flat) (2011) was a relatively solid performer, earning $221,000 compared with expectations of $200–300,000. The record for the artist—$1 million—was set at Christie’s 2014 sale “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday.”

Elizabeth Peyton Star, Elliot (1999) Image: Courtesy of Phillips.

Elizabeth Peyton Star, Elliot (1999)
Image: Courtesy of Phillips.

A signature portrait painting by Elizabeth Peyton, Star Elliot (1999), depicting the late singer-songwriter Elliot Smith, just scraped by its low $200,000 estimate to sell for $209,000 with premium.

Seth Price‘s vacuum formed polystyrene Untitled (Pearlescent White Jacket) (2005) sold, despite missing the low $200,000 estimate, for $197,000 with premium. Yoshitomo Nara‘s Untitled (Household Dog) (2000) similarly missed the low estimate, selling for $185,000 with premium (estimate: $200–300,000). Works by Nate Lowman and Mark Grotjahn saw similar performances by selling despite missing low estimates, indicators that consigners were willing to let go of works at levels below the reported asking price.

Nate Lowman Orders From Corporate (Randall's Island?) (2014) Image: Courtesy of Phillips.

Nate Lowman Orders From Corporate (Randall’s Island?) (2014).
Image: Courtesy of Phillips.


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