Works to Buy at Phillips this Week: Head of Sale Simon Tovey on Standout Lots

For Phillips's second New Now sale of 2017, we spoke with Head of Sale Simon Tovey about market darlings, personal highlights, and the vision behind this comprehensive selection of modern and contemporary art.

Artsy: Can you start by describing any defining characteristics of the sale?

Simon Tovey: Variety! This sale includes everything from young contemporary to a great selection of Modern British works; from Petra  Cortright to Sir Eduardo Paolozzi — there is a fantastic range of works on offer across different price points.

A: Are there any lots in the sale that feel particularly timely or coincide with institutional exhibitions?

ST: Ugo Rondinone's Small Red Black Mountain feels like a timely example of the artist's work after his installations last year in Las Vegas and currently on view at the Bass Museum in Miami.  I love the scale of this work — it feels very manageable. This coupled with the organic nature of the work, combined with the obvious intervention of the artist, provides a sense of intrigue. On the one hand it is a natural element, and on the other an art object. The artist’s exploration into re-contextualizing the natural world is both fascinating and beautiful.

A: Another artist receiving significant attention this year, particularly with his retrospective at London's Tate Modern, is Wolfgang Tillmans. What do you like about the combination of four photographs from 2007 that comprise lot 4?

ST: The can’t-miss exhibition at the Tate Modern is perhaps one of my favorites of recent times. Tillmans’ wide-ranging body of work has always been in demand: His abstract works like the Freischwimmers are enjoying a strong moment in the market, yet his representational works have an equal depth and beauty. Each feels like a snap shot of a bigger story which keeps the viewer guessing as to what they are witnessing, all through the sincere and factual lens of the artist.

A: The first lot is a very tall painting by KAWS, one of two works by the artist in this sale. Given his recent or ongoing exhibitions in Europe, Asia, and the United States, why do you think the market is paying extra attention to him right now?

ST: The KAWS market has been consistently solid over recent years, with nothing short of avid loyalty. The sense you get from a KAWS collector is that they never own just one work. The wider attention garnered from recent shows further demonstrates that this artist is very much a collector’s artist who transcends the limits in the traditional art world with his broad appeal.

A: This is also the second Phillips New Now sale in 2017 to prominently feature a Petra Cortright. Can you describe the mix of media and imagery she's employing in this work, W9_krakow pajaki package crack panic attacks cheet codes/deer hunter cheetah, tarzan?

ST: I love the aesthetic of Petra’s works — each abstracted from digital reference into the physical object before us. This lot in our sale takes on the qualities of a craft-like object: Each abstraction feels woven into the layers of digital process, finished on aluminum which adds depth and weight to the work. In terms of artists exploring the internet, I feel like her work really stands out from the crowd as both powerful and distinct.  

A: Korakrit Arunanondchai grew up in Bangkok prior to studying and working in New York. How do you think his multicultural heritage is reflected in his work?

ST: To me, Korakrit’s work feels like the combination of his multitude of talents. His forays in fashion and music, combined with his training in print making, are pulled together in this work. The blue denim-like background references the trials of youth culture which he represents, with the flames burning through as the fire in the belly of society. The work resonates even more in these times of change.

Explore Phillips: New Now on Artsy, and place max bids on nearly 250 artworks. Live bidding opens in London on Thursday, April 6th, at 2:00pm GMT (9:00am ET).