Weak pound lures international bidders to Phillips evening sale in London, fetching $20.9m despite market uncertainties
Phillips fetched £18.7 million ($20.9 million) at its Frieze week night sale of 20th century and contemporary art in London on Friday, a result well within presale expectations from £14.8m to £21m ($16.5m to $23.5m) and with a sell-through rate of 94%. (All auction prices include fees unless otherwise noted; pre-sale estimates do not include fees.)
The auction house continued to live up to its reputation for introducing young talent through its sales, setting a few new artist records. The total was also a slight increase from June’s evening sales total of £17.5m ($21.3m), despite market uncertainties and the weakening of the pound against the dollar. .
However, the UK’s struggling economy could translate to an advantage for the country’s art market. Just hours before the Phillips sale was to begin, British Prime Minister Liz Truss sacked Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng over a controversial mini-budget that sent the pound plummeting to a record low. But the bad news didn’t seem to have an impact in the Berkeley Street auction room, which was packed with bidders and onlookers taking advantage of the free flow of champagne.
The weak pound might have made the sale even more attractive to international collectors, many of whom are in town for the Frieze art fair. It attracted bidders from 38 countries, with a number of American collectors bidding online and 32% of registered bidders coming from Asia.
“Because of the weakness of the pound, things were relatively cheap, if you’re paying in dollars,” Phillips CEO Stephen Brooks told Artnet News after the sale, adding that the middle market in particular looked strong. . “It was a worldwide attendance, and London will have seemed like good value for money.”
The Friday night sale total, however, is obviously lower than last year, when the auction house made £26.3m ($34.7m) on its sale. of October 2021, as well as the result of the pre-pandemic 2019 sale, which amounted to £25.9. million ($31.9 million).
Of the 33 lots on offer Friday night, only two remained unsold (four works, however, including paintings by Cecily Brown, Pierre Soulages and Sigmar Polke, and a sculpture by Damien Hirst, were withdrawn before the sale). And the works of Alberto Burri, Yayoi Kusama, Banksy and Marc Chagall were guaranteed by third parties.
The best batch of the evening was Burri’s Sacco and Rosso (1956), which sold for £3 million ($3.4 million), followed by Banksy’s Sorry, the lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock. (2012), which grossed £1.8 million ($2 million). Another work by Banksy took third place, Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge (2002), which grossed £1.1 million ($1.3 million).
Records have been set for artists such as British painter Michaela Yearwood-Dan, whose 2021 work Coping mechanisms sold for £239,400 ($267,400) – more than five times above its previous record, also set at Phillips in London in June, and almost eight times above the high end of the estimate for presale of £30,000 ($33,500). The abstract painting went to an online buyer from Japan.
by Robert Nava Before the Minotaur (2019) sold for £639,600 ($714,400). This is a 33% increase from its record set in March, when frozen bark sold at Sotheby’s London for £478,800 ($636,500) – but was converted to dollars, the increase was only around 12%.
The other artist record was for Caroline Walker’s painting in 2017 night sceneswhich sold for £516,600 ($577,000), and Doron Langberg’s Nir and Zach (2018), which sold for £378,000 ($422,200), more than three times its previous record set earlier this year.
The sale was also the first auction of some artists, including the American painter Julian Pace, born in 1988. His portrait Kanye attracted fierce competition from various bidders, but it eventually sold for £113,400 ($126,800) to an online bidder from China, more than triple its pre-sale estimate. And pinball pencil by Rebecca Ness, another auction newbie, sold for £119,700 ($133,800) to an online Hong Kong bidder.
Meanwhile, an untitled 2011 finger painting by Japanese artist Ayako Rokkaku—now one of the top five selling Japanese artists according to Artnet Price Database—sold to an Asian bidder in the room for 296,100. £ ($331,050). Although the artist has had day-to-day sales and online auctions, this was his first appearance at a major London evening sale.
Despite the records and new names, the sale dragged on at times due to a relatively lengthy bidding process for some lots, with phone bidders showing signs of uncertainty. A monumental work by Mark Bradford, Gunpowder nodding (2013), estimated at £2-3 million ($2.2-3.4 million), and a large-scale collage of paintings and photos by John Baldessari, Female and male faces (with notations) with black and white commentary (1989), estimated at £250,000–350,000 ($280,000–392,000), both unsold by late night.
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