Editions to Buy at Auction this Week: Insights from Phillips’ Worldwide Co-Heads of Editions

We spoke to Phillips’ Worldwide Co-Heads of Editions, Kelly Troester and Cary Leibowitz, about unique finds, editioned objects, and a French artist of the 20th century again receiving auction attention.

  • Kelly Troester (left) and Cary Leibowitz (right) pose with a selection of Bernard Buffet lithographs and engravings now on view at 450 Park Avenue

    Kelly Troester (left) and Cary Leibowitz (right) pose with a selection of Bernard Buffet lithographs and engravings now on view at 450 Park Avenue

Artsy: This sale features some of the biggest names in modern and contemporary art, and at typically more accessible prices. How do you recommend navigating this selection, especially for new collectors?

Kelly Troester: From lot 104 through the end of the sale, we have an appealing variety of artists and images at price points generally under $5,000, some of which will be sold without reserve. We lead with the more modern works before moving to the contemporary pieces. There is a rhyme and reason to how we lay out a sale — for instance, by time period, artistic style, nationality and so on.

  • Kelly Troester seen here with a grouping of Pablo Picasso ceramics and prints

    Kelly Troester seen here with a grouping of Pablo Picasso ceramics and prints

A: How do you go about setting estimates for a sale like this? Can you describe the process and what factors account for price differences between what may seem to be similar works?

KT: We base our estimates on recent past auction estimates and prices realized, condition and market or trend fluctuations. Price differences are usually for a reason: selling history of that work (which can be typical or atypical of that artist's oeuvre); scale (sometimes it can be hard to tell from a catalogue); edition size and condition factors. We will always try to put the most conservative and attractive estimate on a work so we are able to generate attention to it. We start with that strategy, ideally.

  • Cary Leibowitz alongside works by Claes Oldenburg, Robert Longo and Keith Haring

    Cary Leibowitz alongside works by Claes Oldenburg, Robert Longo and Keith Haring

A: Can you both share some of your personal picks from the sale? What makes them so special or unusual?

Cary Leibowitz: If I had to shoplift one work under my jacket it would be lot 73, the Ed Ruscha Twenty Six Gasoline stations, from bookcovers. The reference is to his self-published photography books, showing off what a truly special draughtsman he is. In this lithograph, the banality of a book cover is tweaked with the leaking gasoline — for the right historian, this could be a surrealist narrative or a commentary on car culture in Los Angeles...I'll take it either way.

I am also a “quantity” sort of collector — I always want more! Our Day Sale has over 300 lots and some works that I have coveted for a long time, such as lot 315 by Robert Goberand and lot 317 by Félix González-Torres, two very different works by very different artists that I consider "time to buy" at these prices right now.

And finally, lot 285 by Jonathan Borofsky, entitled I dreamed I found A Red Ruby from 1984: When I was young and MTV was new, Borofsky was a major influence and really had a strong impact on me — he still does. I think he had a strong influence on the whole California school with artists like Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, and Reymond Pettibon. With its brutal magical honesty, I think lot 285 is perfect.

KT: From the modern section, I have quite a few favorites of my own. I love the imagery and sky in lot 177, Milton Avery's Night Nude from 1953, which has just the right amount of abstractness. It is a woodcut, so you get the strong wood grain and beautiful detail from the gouged-out areas. It is also a large image (really substantial when hung on the wall), from a small edition of 25, so it should be considered rare.

Also rare for Phillips is the trio of nineteenth-century prints at the beginning of the Evening Sale: Paul Cézanne's Large Bathers, 1896, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's Moulin Rouge, 1893 and Edvard Munch's Girl at the Window, 1894. These are all fantastic and relatively affordable examples of the three artists' iconic imagery and mastery of printmaking skills, all drawn on lithography stones or a copper plate (the Munch) by the artists and then hand-printed in small editions. They were actually consigned by three different collectors so it just happened to make for a wonderful group of master prints all printed around the same time. I would love to own all of them...

A: Part of the enjoyment in browsing Editions is the emphasis on three-dimensional works and editioned art objects — for instance, the Robert Indiana rug, Sherrie Levine's shoes and the Maurizio Cattelan "Wrong Gallery" piece. Can you shed light on this season's selection?

CL: Multiples are great to live with and very different than having a piece hanging on your wall. Perhaps you have to hide it away for the utmost protection. Marcel Duchamp really set the stage for this type of work: They are not 'sculptures' in bronze or clay; they are banal and normal but are not banal and normal at the same time.

The piece by Georg Herold is another great example. In this case, essentially, a found pair of undies become monumental and important.

A: Your sale also features a collection of lithographs and etchings by Bernard Buffet, once praised by Andy Warhol and labeled "the most talked about artist in France after Picasso." Why is now the right time to revisit Buffet?

KT: All artists go through fashion trends, and the last time Buffet was really, really popular at auction was in the late 1980s. Then people moved onto other things, but after 20 years we feel it is a good time to see if a new generation of American collectors may find his work engaging.

Europeans and Japanese still collect Buffet, but you don't see so much material in the U.S. We have also been seeing an upswing in his painting prices in the last year, so we thought a wider group of collectors would be interested in his very affordable graphic work. Plus, his lithographs and etchings are great examples of the medium — he worked with the most important printers in Paris such as Fernand and Jacques Mourlot and Roger Lacouriére.

Explore Phillips: Editions and Works on Paper on Artsy, and place max bids on more than 200 artworks. Live bidding opens Tuesday, October 17th, with sessions at 10am, 2pm, and 6:30pm ET.