Phillips’ Strong Closer

PETER DOIG, Tunnel Painting (Country-rock), 2000, signed, titled and dated ‘Peter Doig “Tunnel Painting (Country-rock)” 2000’ on the reverse, oil on canvas, 40.5 x 30.5 cm (15 7/8 x 12 in.), Estimate: £500,000 – 700,000

Phillips scored a notable close to the London evening sale season at its posh Berkeley Square headquarters, tallying £24,373,000/$31,441,170.

Only two of the 31 lots offered failed to sell for a petite buy-in rate by lot of six percent.

The tally, including fees, came close to the high end of pre-sale expectations pegged at £17.8-25.3/$23-32.7 million

Tonight’s result more than doubled last June’s same category auction that made £11.8/$16.1 million for the 21 lots that sold, an impressive 105 percent increase.

Ten of the 29 lots that sold went for over one million pounds and a dozen sold for more than one million dollars.

One artist record was set.

Phillips arranged a thirteen guarantees, covering five third party backed lots and seven house guarantees that ranged in combined estimates from £12.7-15 million.

All prices reported include the hammer price plus the tacked on buyer’s premium for each lot sold, calculated at 25 percent of the hammer price up to and including £100,000, 20 percent of the portion above that and up to and including £1.8 million and 12 percent for any remaining portion over that.

Of the three main houses, Phillips charges the lowest buyer’s premium but still a chunky sum.

The total hammer price achieved before fees was £20.2/$24.3 million.

The evening began on a playful note with Thomas Schutte’s toy-like standing sculpture, resembling a skinny Michelin Man, “Kleiner Geist” from 1995 and executed as a unique work in aluminum, sold for £389,000/$501,810 (est. £300-500,000).

WOLFGANG TILLMANS, Freischwimmer #84, 2004, signed ‘Wolfgang Tillmans’ on a gallery label affixed to the reverse
c-print, in artist’s frame, 238.8 x 181 cm (94 x 71 1/4 in.), Estimate: £200,000 – 300,000

Wolfgang Tillman’s large-scale abstraction, “Freischwimmer #84” from 2004, a c-print in artist’s frame from an edition of one plus one artist’s proof and scaled at 94 by 71 ¼ inches, went for a record £605,000/$780,450 after a five minute bidding battle between numerous contenders (est. 200-300,000).

Another similarly scaled Tillmans, “Freischwimmer #81” from 2005 sold at Sotheby’s Wednesday evening for £500,750/$641,010.

Phillips’ example last sold at Phillips’ London in October 2012 for £39,650.

In that same photographic vein, Richard Prince’s unmistakable “Untitled (Cowboy)” from 1992, an ektacolor print sized at 15 ½ by 22 7/8 inches and number one from an edition of two plus one artist’s proof, brought £245,000/$316,050 (est. £200-300,000).

The appropriated image, capturing the solo cowboy lighting up, originated as an advertising campaign for Marlboro cigarettes and ran in various ad campaigns from 1954 to 1999.

Moving to figurative paintings, Jonas Wood’s 89 by 105 inch composition, “Head Up” from 2013, depicting a high-stakes poker game sold to a Japanese online bidder for £317,000/$408,930 (est. 200-300,000).  One can’t help to speculate, without a hint of attribution, that the buyer could be the Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa who bought Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled” work from 1982 at Sotheby’s New York in May for a record $110.5 million.

The same online bidder (paddle #7020), referred by auctioneer and head of sale Henry Highley as “our friend in Japan,” came back at the end of the sale to nab Wood’s geometric themed and Malevich influenced composition, “Untitled (Red and Black)” from 2009 that made £137,000/$176,730 (est. 80-120,000).

Georg Baselitz’s distorted worker, “Ein Werktatiger” from 1967, executed in oil on paper laid on canvas, sold to a telephone bidder for £485,000/$625,650 (est. £400-600,000).

It was backed by a third party guarantee and last sold at Christie’s London in June 2007 for £144,000.

ALBERT OEHLEN, Abyss, 1997, signed and dated ‘A. Oehlen ’97’ on the reverse, inkjet, oil, acrylic and spray enamel on canvas, 201.6 x 303.1 cm (79 3/8 x 119 3/8 in.), Estimate: £1,000,000 – 1,500,000

Other German artists took three of the top ten prices as Albert Oehlen’s large-scale abstraction, “Abyss” from 1997 in inkjet, oil, acrylic and spray enamel on canvas, and part of his acclaimed Computer Paintings series, generated bidding heat and sold for £2,165,000/$2,792,850 (est. £1-1.5 million).

SIGMAR POLKE, Ohne Titel (Porträtist), 1979, signed and dated ‘S. Polke 79’ lower right, gouache, spray paint and pencil on paper, 69.9 x 99.5 cm (27 1/2 x 39 1/8 in.), Estimate: £700,000 – 1,000,000

Sigmar Polke’s Pop Art infused and comic book styled work on paper, in gouache, spray paint and pencil from 1979, “Ohne Title (Portraitist)” sold to a telephone bidder for £1,085,000/$1,399,650 (est. £700,000-1 million) and the smallishly scaled, 28 1/2 by 24 1/2 inch, color charged cover lot Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (682-4)” from 1988 took the top lot and sold to Westphal’s telephone for £2,389,000/$3,081,810 (est. £2.2-2.8 million.)

Both the Polke and the Richter were backed by house guarantees.

The Polke last sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2015 for £617,000 and Phillips demonstrated that such a short time off the auction market doesn’t always backfire.

GERHARD RICHTER, Abstraktes Bild (682-4), 1988, signed, numbered and dated ‘Richter 682-4 1988’ on the reverse, oil on canvas, 72.5 x 62.2 cm (28 1/2 x 24 1/2 in.), Estimate: £2,200,000 – 2,800,000

That said, Lucio Fontana’s punctured and Murano glass embedded “Concetto Spaziale” from 1961 brought £1,025,00/$1,322,250 (est. £1-1.5 million).

It last sold at Sotheby’s London in October 2015 for £965,000. Call that a wash.

Sculpture scored another high note with Rebecca Warren’s mighty bronze female nude on painted bronze plinth, “Facia II” from 2010 and number two from an edition of six plus two artist’s proofs that sold to a telephone bidder for an estimate busting £329,000/$424,410 (est. £140-180,000).

Another bronze from the same edition was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2011.

The Warren certainly looked like a Louise Bourgeois but that artist was represented by “Nature Study,” a kind of female hybrid headless creature from 1996 in biscuit porcelain, also from an edition of six plus two artist’s proofs, that went to another telephone manned by Phillips’ new chairman Cheyenne Westphal for £720,000/$935,250 (est. £600-800,000).

It last sold at Phillips London in October 2012 for £713,250.

Women artists, as already noted, were well represented, including Bridget Riley’s optically challenging “Rill” from 1976, a totem like, wavy abstraction in pale green and pink hues at 89 ¾ by 37 7/8 inches that sold to another telephone bidder for £1,445,000/$1,864,050 (est. £1/2-1.8 million).

It was also backed by a third party guarantee.

Rill, 1976, signed and dated ‘Riley ’76’ on the turnover edge; signed, titled and, dated ‘Riley “Rill” 1976’ on the reverse; further signed, titled and dated ‘Riley’ “Rill” 1976′ on the stretcher, acrylic on linen, 228 x 96.2 cm (89 3/4 x 37 7/8 in.)
Estimate: £1,200,000 – 1,800,000

A second Riley, “Orange Paired” from 2013 and much larger at 70 1/8 by 120 ¼ inches, also went to an anonymous telephone bidder for £821,000/$1,059,090 (est. £600-800,000).

Back on the American artist front, Keith Haring’s autobiographical composition about his younger sibling sister Kristen, “Untitled” from 1984 and depicting two intertwined figures, attracted at least three bidders and sold for £2,333,000/$3,009,570 (est. £1,2-1.8 million).

Venice Biennale star Mark Bradford was represented by “Drag Her to the Path,” a mixed media collage on canvas standing72 1/8 by 96 1/8 inches from 2011 and replete with submerged references to the Civil Rights Movement, went to another telephone bidder for £2,227,000/$2,937,330 (est. £1.8-2.5 million).

The Bradford phone line was manned by Jonathan Crockett, Phillips’ deputy chairman, Asia.

One of only two spurned lots fell to New York star artist Joe Bradley and his 96 by 66 inch oil and mixed media on canvas “Hat Trick” from 2009 that bombed against a £300-500,000 estimate. The magic was missing tonight.

It hailed from the artist’s former primary market dealer, Canada. Bradford is now with Gagosian.

Phillips scored with the only Peter Doig offered during the London sales season, as the small-scaled “Tunnel Painting (Country-rock)” from 2000 and to Doig followers, a somewhat hallowed subject of a rainbow painted viaduct along a Canadian highway, sold to a telephone bidder for an estimate topping £1,157,000/$1,492.530 (est. £500-700,000).

A much larger version (76.7 by 106.3 inches), “Country-Rock (Wing Mirror)” sold at Sotheby’s London I June 2014 for £8.4 million.

“I’m glad we took the decision to stick with June,” said , Phillips’ world-wide co-head of 20th Century and Contemporary Art, shortly after the sale, and referring to the absence of Christie’s this round in London, “we’re just pleased with the result at the end of a long art season, people are still looking for great works.”

Joking in part and referencing Christie’s absence, Engelen added, “our market share has never been so good in June.”

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