Phillips’ contemporary art sale averaged $ 27 million, led by a shocking six-figure price for young star Amoako Boafo
Phillips topped off the winter sales of contemporary art in London on Thursday evening with a passable £ 20.7million ($ 27million) auction that barely exceeded his low estimate of £ 18.2million ($ 23.7 million). (As always, final prices include the buyer’s premium; presale estimates do not.)
Although the event was relatively well attended, total sales (which had a high estimate of £ 25.5million, or $ 33.3million) were down 43% from the year last, although it reached a higher total than in previous winter sales in 2015 and 2017.
Of the 41 lots in the catalog, four were unsold at the end of the evening and three withdrawn even before the start of the sale.
The artist known as KAWS is notable in both categories, the prices of which have been rising rapidly in recent times due to Asian demand. But the extraordinary KAWS market seems to have been held back for now, and not before its time, some would say.
Tuesday evening at Sotheby’s, a sculpture guaranteed by KAWS produced no benefit for the guarantor. Then, at Phillips on Thursday, another sculpture, titled Last days, has been withdrawn (it has been estimated between £ 700,000 and £ 900,000, or $ 913,042 to $ 117,391); a table titled On time (estimated at £ 300,000 to £ 400,000, or $ 391,303 to $ 521,738) failed to sell; and another photo, the blessed FRIENDS AWAY, sold on one offer and for just £ 900,000 ($ 117,391), below its estimate.
Phillips had secured third-party guarantors for most of his top-selling lots, but the majority of those big-ticket items appeared to be selling to those backers – and without much competition. These could include Ed Ruscha’s awe-inspiring landscape God knows where (estimated at £ 3.4million, or $ 4.4million); a 1981 Keith Haring painted tarp (£ 3.2 million, or $ 4.2 million); and a Damien Hirst medicine cabinet, Body, from 1989 (£ 1.4 million, or $ 1.8 million).
The cabinet came from the collection of financial trader Robert Tibbles, who bought it at the artist’s diploma exhibition in 1989 for £ 600. Tonight he set a record for a Hirst medicine cabinet when it sold for £ 1.4million ($ 1.8million), although there were no further offers . Such was the situation for Phillips, who had to compete with Sotheby’s and Christie’s for the £ 4million Tibbles collection, and had to quote higher than they might have preferred.
From the Tibbles collection was also a first spot of Hirst, Antipyrylazo III, which experienced a bit more competition, selling within estimate for £ 1.3million ($ 1.7million). But it was still several below-premium offers for the artist’s one-off paintings, which were set at the peak of the Hirst Market in 2007-08.
The rest of the Tibbles collection, which focuses on YBA art, included estimated mid-range prices for Hirst’s early spin and butterfly paintings and a large image of YBA guru Michael Craig-Martin (now represented by Gagosian ). The painting, titled Full, sold above estimate for £ 162,500 ($ 211,956), just below the record of £ 175,000 set for a work by Craig-Martin in the George Michael Collection sale at Christie’s in the year last. Full is probably the best painting, but Tibbles is not George Michael.
Close the tail of the Tibbles collection was Magnolia Carries A by Gary Hume, who was sued by London dealer Offer Waterman before selling above estimate for £ 40,000 ($ 52,173). The only survivor of a series of Hume’s door paintings where the gloss paint has cracked irreparably, this may turn out to be a bargain. All in all, the Tibbles collection was a test from which the YBA market has emerged satisfactorily, given that it has not yet entered the realms of historical significance, and in light of the fact that this type of Concept art is not currently in fashion.
What is à la mode was featured in the first lots of the auction, and indeed the very first painting at the auction was by Ghanaian-born artist Amoako Boafo. The lemon swimsuit, a large, colorful figurative painting by the young artist, was reportedly featured by Los Angeles dealer and collector Stefan Simchowitz, and it sold, surprisingly, for a reference of £ 675,000 ($ 881,432) for an estimate of 30 £ 000 to £ 50,000 ($ 39,130 to $ 65,217).
This estimate was based on a sold-out exhibition of Chicago merchant Mariane Ibrahim at Art Basel Miami Beach, where the paintings cost between $ 15,000 and $ 45,000. But clearly, the speculative elements of the market have decided to put Boafo’s prices in orbit.
The Boafo was quickly followed by another sexy young artist, Julie Curtiss, whose Four buns was hunted down by London dealer Omer Tiroche before selling to an Asian telephone bidder on the high estimate of £ 137,500 ($ 179,347). Separately, a new record of £ 435,000 was set for a work by Tschbalala Self for its stitched fabric, human hair, stiletto heels Princess, from 2017.
A trendy opening quartet was complemented by a large, colorful abstract canvas, Jean Neanderthal, by Eddie Martinez, whose work has sold well all week. The buyer this time, with an estimate of £ 375,000 ($ 489,129), was Russian art specialist and dealer James Butterwick, who was also active for a client at Sotheby’s on Tuesday.
Other dealers who bought (and there weren’t many tonight) were representatives from the Levy Gorvy Gallery, who picked up a less than appraised 1990 Gunther Forg artwork for £ 411,000 ( $ 536,085). Forg’s prices have risen since his death in 2013, and this painting was last auctioned off in 2006 for £ 66,000 ($ 86,086 in today’s dollars).
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