Contemporary Art

After Action Report: 20th Century & Contemporary Evening Sale (Phillips)

Detailed results from tonight's evening sale at Phillips including the monumental sale of Basquiat's Untitled from 1982, plus ultra contemporary stars Lauren Quin, Anna Weyant, and Shara Hughes.

The Bullet: $224,906,950 with 100% of the lots sold (35/35 + 1 lot withdrawn) and a hammer ratio of 1.18

The sale had an average price of $5.33 million with the median lot selling for $1.3 million. For more statistics on the sale, click here.

A New Era at Phillips: CEO Stephen Brooks could scarcely believe his luck. Tonight's sale was the highest in the company's history, almost twice the previous year's sale when it sold $118.2 million. "We will be celebrating tonight," Brooks told the press after the sale. Even without the Jean-Michel Basquiat painting that sold for $85 million which represented a nearly 50% rise in price over six years—the sale would have been among the highest in Phillips history. 

New Discipline at Phillips: Selling all of the lots was a demonstration of the strong sale management. Even the withdrawn lot (a Jonas Wood) showed better discipline than in the past.  Although new owners acquired Phillips 14 years ago, the sales tended to betray the house's roots as a market for untested artists where estimates were more aspirational than credible. Not tonight. 44% of the lots sold for hammer prices above estimates; another 44% sold within the estimate range; and only 12% were sold for compromise prices. 

Asian Support: Asian bidding played a key but not overwhelming role in the night's success including the fact that the buyer of the $85 million Basquiat was from the region. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat is the new Warhol: Asked about the appeal of Basquiat and the strong prices achieved for the artist—tonight's sale was the third highest price paid for a Basquiat at auction—Jean-Paul Engelen pointed out that today's 40-year-olds had grown up with hip-hop music and street culture as part of their shared experience in the same way that baby boomers experienced the popular culture images of Andy Warhol. 

Women Writ Large: Robert Manley added that 14 of the artists in the sale, nearly half, were women. Of particular note was the new record price paid for Yayoi Kusama's white Infinity Net painting from 1959 that sold for $10.49 million. Strong prices were paid for Lauren Quin, Anna Weyant, Shara Hughes, Issy Wood, Carmen Herrera, María Berrío and Hilary Pecis

Still a Country for Old Men: All of those women notwithstanding, Phillips also put up strong prices for 20th Century masters like Yves Klein, Wayne Thiebaud, Hans Hoffmann and the surprise hit of the night, which was a small Picasso painting estimated at only $4 million that sold for $10.267 million.

Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!: New York hasn't talked about a Reggie—as in Reggie Burrows Hodges—as much since Reggie Jackson was a Yankee. Last week, Christie's briefly stole the record-price crown for Hodges work from Phillips where the two previous records were made. Tonight, Phillips took it back with the $730k sale of Intersection of Color: Suite from 2019. Another debut tonight was Justin Caguiat who made a solid opener at $504,000. Dondi White's prices also continued to rise through the six-figure range when Rebel Rocking the Blind Light sold for $151,200. View the full results here.

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