Works to Buy at Phillips New Now: Head of Sale Rebekah Bowling on Highlights and the Market
New Now opens Phillips’s fall auction season, showcasing a comprehensive survey of both established names and coveted newcomers. In tandem with our second partnership with Phillips, we spoke with Head of Sale Rebekah Bowling about personal highlights, thematic trends, and opportunities for new and seasoned collectors.
Artsy: Can you start by describing the curatorial philosophy underpinning New Now? Are you looking for particular date ranges or media, or are you interested in contemporary works more broadly?
Rebekah Bowling: Though a large portion of the works in the sale would be considered "cutting-edge" contemporary, I look for opportunities to juxtapose works from a younger generation alongside more established artists, both as a way to contextualize the more contemporary material and to offer a diverse selection that's representative of what's happening right now in the art world.
A: What are some of your personal highlights from the auction? What about the works should collectors pay attention to?
RB: There are so many works I'm excited about in the sale, so it's difficult to choose just a few! I'm always especially pleased when there are artists represented in the sale with coinciding institutional presentations.
RB (cont.): This year our first lot is a work by Josh Kline. He currently has a solo exhibition at the Portland Art Museum and a forthcoming show at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo later in the fall. Josh is one of the most influential artists of his generation and we're offering a wonderful example of his work, "it's clean, it's natural, we promise" from 2011. Comprised of commercial metal shelving and 24 Duane Read bottles boiled in their own water, this piece embodies his concern with the ways in which technology affects politics, labor and the human body.
RB (cont.): Another highlight for me is me is lot 24, Matt Connor's "Untitled" from 2015. This is the first major work from the artist to come to auction. It's a stunning example that captures his special ability to create compositions that both draw upon the history of painting and occupy a uniquely contemporary territory.
RB (cont.): I'd also like to take the opportunity to mention a group of works coming from the estate of Pentti Kouri, a prominent Finnish collector who passed away in 2009. His aesthetic vision and prescient taste built a distinguished collection that was very much ahead of the curve. Among the 17 works from his collection we're offering in the sale are Lawrence Weiner's language-based installation "ASSUMING THE POSITION" from 1989, which spans the front and back cover of the catalog for the sale, and Michael Heizer's large-scale sculpture "Perforated Object 11" 1990 - 1993.
RB (cont.): Finally, I think a really special work in the sale is Tony Fehr's "Ruby Bengonia" from 2000. This is an incredibly important piece within in his body of work and it was included in a major traveling exhibition of his work from 2012 - 2014. With the sad news of his passing earlier this year, this work is a poignant example of the way he used humble, everyday objects to create beautiful works that tapped into human themes and captured the transience of life.
A: For a new collector of contemporary art, which works would you recommend from the auction as "anchor" pieces?
RB: I'm always a little wary to impose my personal taste — I prefer to see what someone, especially a new collector, is intuitively drawn toward. One of the really great things about the sale is the wide range of price points represented, with estimate ranges starting at $2,000 - $3,000. If a painting or sculpture isn't within someone's budget, I often suggest that photographs or works on paper are a good place to start. Within these categories, I think some standouts are lot 53, a work on paper from Richard Tuttle, lot 121, a drawing by Nicole Eisenman, and lot 101, a group of three Wolfgang Tillmans photos.
A: Are there any themes or subjects that you see in common amongst the works available in this sale? What do you find most intriguing?
RB: In general, the artists I find most interesting are making work that explores how influences like technological innovations as well as current social and cultural forces are involved in shaping identity, and I think a number of the younger artists represented in the sale are engaging with this idea in diverse and intriguing ways.