Works to Buy at Phillips this Week: Head of Sale John McCord on Contemporary Tastes and Icons

In tandem with our continued partnership with Phillips, we spoke with Head of Sale John McCord about the diverse offerings in Phillips' upcoming 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale.

  • John McCord, Specialist and Head of Day Sale at Phillips New York

    John McCord, Specialist and Head of Day Sale at Phillips New York

Artsy: Your sale features a diverse range of media and genres. Can you speak to how this selection came together and the different opportunities it provides collectors?

John McCord: We’ve continued to build on the strong success we’ve had with a number of artists championed in recent seasons, from the cutting-edge contemporary to post-war Japanese including Jiro Takamatsu and Kumi Sugai. This season we’ve also been fortunate to secure two monumental works by Joel Shapiro and Tony Cragg, enabling our clients to expand their collections of outdoor sculpture.

JM (cont.): We’re also pleased to be offering an important work from the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a small selection of incredible works by Carl Andre from the estate of the legendary filmmaker Hollis Frampton.

A: What are some of the trends you've seen within the contemporary art market in 2017 and which ones do you anticipate continuing through to the June sales in London?

JM: We’ve seen incredible momentum for Jiro Takamatsu, Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama, and Yoshitomo Nara, among many others. There is also very palpable interest in contemporary women artists, particularly Laura Owens, Pat Steir, Lisa Yuskavage, Sue Williams, and Julia Wachtel.

A: You have a spotlight within the sale on the Pictures Generation, featuring works by Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, and Laurie Simmons. From your perspective, what are the qualities that unite this diverse group and continue to attract market interest?

JM: I think what is so interesting about the Pictures Generation artists is that they feel incredibly cutting-edge right now, and the their approach to image-making speaks to a younger generation of emerging artists.

A: You also have a special single-owner section from a New York collector that features Lucio Fontana and Richard Prince, among others. Can you elaborate on this collection?

JM: This particular collector just has an amazing eye — the collection is very diverse, and each individual example represents the most iconic works by Judd, Stingel, Grotjahn, Fontana, and Prince.        

A: Can you walk us through a work that is particularly relevant given the opening of the Venice Biennale?

JM: This season we were fortunate to secure an incredible work by Mark Bradford, who is representing the U.S., along with important artworks by Erwin Wurm (Austria), Carol Bove (Switzerland), and Sam Gilliam.      

A: Lastly, which single piece are you most excited about bringing to auction and what makes it so unique for you?

JM: It is tough to pick just one this season! I would have to say it is a draw between Carl Andre’s Wood Saw-Cut Exercise, and Julia Wachtel’s Landscape No. 13 (backyard). A work the caliber of Wood Saw-Cut Exercise is rarely seen at auction, and it is a truly a minimalist masterpiece from 1958 by Andre.  I think that Wachtel is such an important artist whose market is really gaining steam, although  compared with peers Cady Noland and Richard Prince she is still very undervalued. And with  Wachtel’s Membership (1984) actually serving as the headlining work in the Whitney Museum’s current exhibition “FAST FORWARD: PAINTING FROM THE 1980S”, we expect Landscape No. 13  (backyard) to do very well!

Explore Phillips: 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale on Artsy, and place max bids on nearly 200 artworks. Live bidding opens in New York on Wednesday, May 17th, at 11:00am ET.