Contemporary Art

Phillips London Evening sale = £30m ($39.5m)

A market that favors emerging talent plays to Phillips strength

Phillips Evening sale in London made £30.1 million or $39.5 million with 39 of the 41 lots offered sold. Another six lots were withdrawn pre-sale. A campaign on social media targeting Phillips because its owners are Russian—though they live outside of the country and are not sanctioned—was a cause of concern before the sale. It’s not clear any of the withdrawn lots were due to the war in Ukraine but Phillips CEO Stephen Brooks has taken no chances. The auction housed announced after the sale that it had donated £5.8 million to the Ukrainian Red Cross.

The works that were auctioned didn’t deviate from the broad market trends seen elsewhere during the week. Phillips is smaller than its rivals and specializes in the work of emerging artists. So it should be no surprise their results were skewed below the million-dollar mark where bidding intensified. Above $1 million works were selling mostly at the low estimate or for compromise prices.

Overall the sale was split relatively evenly between the 12 works that were sold below estimates or were bought in; the 14 works sold within estimates; and the 15 works selling above the estimate range.

The hammer ratio for the entire sale was slightly above the low estimate at 1.02 but in-line with the results at the other houses. The market continues to be priced accurately which mostly reflects the use of guarantees.

As the lot-by-lot graph above shows, the market action took place mostly at the beginning and end of the sale. The size of the bubbles in the graph reflects the hammer ration where a bigger bubble is equal to more intense bidding.

Lauren Quin’s “Airsickness” created high-point for bidding at the first lot when it sold for $582,000 and a hammer ratio of 11.67. Doron Langberg followed with a $216,000 sale at a 4.33 hammer ratio. Cinga Samson closed out the opening line-up with a $332,000 sale at a hammer ratio of 4.

The next four lots by Kwesi Botchway, Rafa Macarrón, Jadé Fadojutimi and Issy Wood all had hammer ratios 2-3 times the low estimate. Robert Nava and Shara Hughes made strong prices at Phillips following records set earlier in the week.

The sale was orderly until two-thirds of the way through the lots when Harold Ancart and Jadé Fadojutimi saw strong bidding again.

At the very back of the sale, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Renato Guttuso and David Hockney all posted sales between two and four times the low estimate on a hammer basis.

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