Phillips de Pury Auction Worth the Price of a Painting
The Phillips de Pury auction on Thursday night raked in what once would have come from a single painting. Despite parading out pieces by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Richard Prince, the sale was good for a mere $7 million, with individual lots moving for prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thirty-nine went under the gavel, and eight didn't sell.
The Chelsea auction house lacks the savvy, knowledge and reach of Sotheby's and Christie's, so it had to lean on British art collector Charles Saatchi, who has agreed to complete most of his transactions through Phillips de Pury. In trade, subsidies from the auction house help keep access to Saatchi's gallery free.
Roughly a dozen of the lots came from Saatchi, while the others are said to have been rejected by Sotheby's and Christie's. In general, the pieces were "pretty skimpy," according to Manhattan art dealer Edward Tyler Nahem, who observes that the auction house "did pretty well with what they had."
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was the top seller, with her painting "Infinity Nets (T.W.A.)" busting past its high-end presale estimate of $400,000 and settling at $842,500 (including fees). Kusama's performance follows a well-hyped exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery this year.
Richard Prince, meanwhile, didn't fare as well. His "Untitled (Four Women with Their Backs to the Camera)" – how is that untitled? – sold for $320,000 (sans fees), 20 percent below its presale estimate. Three bidders fought for Ed Ruscha's "Mean as Hell," which finally went for $590,500 (including fees).
For most pieces, the bidding was quiet, with only one or two people seriously pursuing a particular lot. Nonetheless, Michael McGinnis, worldwide director of contemporary art for Phillips de Pury, remains optimistic, telling the NY Times, "A lot of money has come back into the market."[Photo courtesy of Phillips de Pury]