Phillips’ Trim summer sale in London generates $21.3m, less than half of 2019 total, as art market enters cautious phase

Short and sweet. Phillips raked in £17.5 million ($21.3 million) in around 70 minutes in his evening sale in London on June 30, a steady and efficient finale to a blockbuster season that started in New York in May.

Although modest compared to the tallies of its biggest rivals, Sotheby’s ($181.8 million) and Christie’s ($248m), Phillips’ result landed near the top of its pre-sale estimate range of £13.6-18.4m. (Final prices include auction fees; estimates do not.)

The house focused on the middle market without any high-end trophies to back the results. (Francis Bacon’s portrait of artist Lucian Freud fetched $52.7 million at Sotheby’s the night before, nearly a third of the total.) Two of the 33 lots offered to Phillips failed to sell and two other paintings were removed before the event, possibly due to a lack of interest. Ninety-four percent of the works had never been auctioned before.

Phillips had no June sales in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. In 2019, a similar auction totaled £35.9million, more than double today’s figure, according to a spokeswoman. At this time, nine works sold for over £1 million. Today, only four lots have exceeded that level, and Phillips executives have offered no in-house guarantees, which generally attracts higher-value works of art.

“We took a slightly more cautious approach and I think it was the right decision,” said Jean-Paul Engelen, President of the Americas and Global Co-Head of 20th Century and Contemporary Art at Phillips. “It speaks to our focused strategy, even when the markets are down, we sell 94% of the works.”

As with many recent auctions, paintings by young women and non-white artists have resulted in the most heated bidding wars. But some works by current market darlings haven’t been flying as high as they probably would have just weeks ago, signaling some sobriety in the face of stock market volatility and rising interest rates. interest. Asia bid actively, winning several works. Online bidders from Lebanon and Canada also competed.

More expensive items from top-notch male artists attracted little or no competition. Such was the case with Cy Twombly’s 1962 Untitled Painting which fetched £2.7 million ($3.3 million), shy of its pre-sale low estimate of £3 million (3. $7 million).

Antonia shower, we get lost (2020). Courtesy of Philips.

Third-party funders were sole bidders for Michelangelo Pistoletto mirror painting Ragazza in minigonna / Ragazza seduta per terrawhich brought in £2 million ($2.4 million), and Nicolas de Staël’s navy, Marine, sold for £1.3 million ($1.6 million). Works by George Condo and Gunther Forg were also sold on unique offers. A Face Mark Grotjahn’s painting has been removed.

The first nine lots in the sale were by female artists, a recent trend of auction houses looking to diversify their offering. Antonia Showering, a 2018 graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art in London, opened the evening with we get lost, an idyllic landscape of mountains, streams and bathers, estimated at £40,000-60,000. Painted in 2020, it was first shown at the White Cube and quickly returned. The final price was £239,400 ($291,700), an auction record for the 1991-born artist.

A signature floral painting by Flora Yukhnovich, whose market has been on fire for a year, fetched £1.7million ($3.3million), almost seven times the low estimate of £250,000. The painting of 2017, I too am overflowingwas the third most expensive lot of the evening.

At least six bidders ran after Maria Berrio’s collage, The Horsemen II (2012), which sold for £809,000 ($985,738), four times the high estimate of £200,000.

Flora Yukhnovitch, Me too, I'm overflowing (2017).  Courtesy of Philips.

Flora Yukhnovitch, I too am overflowing (2017). Courtesy of Philips.

But it didn’t all take off, and buyers seemed savvy, or at least a little weary. A landscape by Shara Hughes, whose colorful compositions have been selling like hot cakes for two years, hammered in at £200,000 ($243,693), below the low estimate of £250,000. Only one bidder won the portrait of Amoako Boafo Bailike, which hammered in at £320,000 ($389,909), shy of the low estimate of £350,000. Anna Weyant’s somewhat chilling painting of a naked child, bath time (2019), sold for £226,800 ($276,348), beating the high estimate but without the hysteria surrounding his paintings of attractive young women.

“That’s still a lot of money for young artists,” Engelen said, adding that more measured bidding is healthier. “It’s an environment where people think when they spend money.”

The auction ended with the only NFT of the evening, the outcome of which was likely impacted by the cryptocurrency crash. Struck on April 27, 2022, The Black Car by artist Asprey Bugatti had an unpublished estimate of £300,000-£500,000. He only attracted one standing bid, hammering £300,000 ($365,540).

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