Alex Katz, Blue Umbrella I (1972). Courtesy of Phillips.
While yesterday’s single-owner sale of predominantly British art at Christie’s felt fairly cozy, Phillips’s sale this evening was the first of the week to engage with more risky, international contemporary art—and it totaled a healthy £25.8 million ($31.8 million).
And whereas both Sotheby’s and Christie’s later this week have posted pre-sale estimates lower than last year, Phillips’s £17.1 to £24.5 million ($21 milion to $30.1 million) estimate was fractionally up, though the house did have seven more lots.
Phillips also had the highest level of pre-sale guarantees, which would have helped consignment levels. Over 60 percent of the value of its sale (or 20 out of the 43 lots) had been guaranteed, all by third parties so as to not expose the company to financial risk.
Top of the estimate list was American superstar Mark Bradford, for whom Phillips had set a record £8.7 million ($12 million) in 2018 when it sold his mural-sized Helter Skelter (2007) for tennis ace John McEnroe. That painting is now in the Broad Museum’s collection.
Hauser & Wirth is currently showing Bradford’s new work in London and, within hours of the opening of Frieze, had sold A Molded Pool of Stories (2019) for $3.4 million, and another at their gallery reportedly for $10 million. The Phillips work, Value 35 (2010),
typically collaged like a disfigured billboard poster, was smaller and guaranteed with a £1.5 million to £2 million estimate ($1.8 million to $2.5 million). Coming from a Los Angeles collection (it was interesting how many works had been shipped over from America in spite of the uncertain situation in Britain), it was subject to a bid—or was it just a wave from the doorway?—at £1.65 million ($2.1 million), at which point the bidder/waiver vanished into thin air, leaving Phillips staff scurrying from the saleroom but unable to retrieve the bid. Finally it was knocked down satisfactorily enough to a genuine phone bidder for £1.9 million ($2.4 million).