Works to Buy at Phillips This Week: Head of Sale Tamila Kerimova on Highlights and the Market

Mid-career trailblazers and fresh talent converge in Phillips’s 20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale in London. In tandem with our continued partnership with Phillips, we spoke with Head of Sale Tamila Kerimova about personal highlights and opportunities for new and seasoned collectors. 

Artsy: Can you start by walking us through some of your personal highlights from the sale?

Tamila Kerimova: A highlight for me is our first lot of the sale, a beautiful photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans, from the Paper Drop series where the artist uses photographic medium to capture the flat paper sheet organized into a 3D shape, creating a sculptural form out of the flat surface. It is exciting to have this in our galleries ahead of a much-anticipated retrospective at Tate Modern opening in February next year, as well as at the Beyeler Foundation.

TK (cont.): In addition, I would highlight the incredibly dreamy set of four drawings by Tacita Dean; Jessica Jackson Hutching’s Couch for a Long Time that was exhibited at the Whitney Biennale; Marlene Dumas’ Couple, a stunning example of her use of watercolour and incredible portraiture; and Erin Shirreff’s Monograph, which, in a way different to Tillmans, beautifully transforms the flat architectural shapes into three-dimensional objects suggestive of Richard Serra’s influence.

A: Are there any surprising stories behind certain lots that you discovered in the curation process?

TK: The collage by Adrian Ghenie is a study for a stunning large-scale painting from 2012, Pie Fight Interior 4. It offers a great insight into the artist’s creative process, which is always exciting for me to unravel. Ghenie usually produces around 10 collages of images taken from the internet or magazines in his preparation for the painting. In this particular work, he uses himself as a centre figure of the picture, dressed as a woman. Then he paints with these studies around him, and usually destroys most of them after the painting is complete, which makes this work even more special.

A: What works would you consider to be classic examples of established artists’ oeuvre? How about more unusual pieces or works by emerging artists?

TK: In terms of established artists, one of my top picks is Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets (OHWNT), which is both the front and back cover of the sale catalogue. Kusama has become the market darling over the past few years and this is a very contemplative example.

TK (cont.): Mark Bradford’s Soccer Ball Bag 1 is an intriguing work from a series he started in 2004 for the California Biennial, and a great compliment to the two important paintings being offered in the Evening Sale. In this sculpture, the artist has used remnants of billboards and magazines found on the streets of his native Los Angeles to create papier-mâché soccer balls. The work refers to the artist’s identity (being African-American) and challenges cultural expectations of what a fine art object should be. I very much look forward to seeing his American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale next year.

TK (cont.): Among a wide selection of emerging artists, a real gem is Sascha Braunig, who has just been taken on by Office Baroque — they will be showing her at Frieze Art fair this week. Her intimate works painted on a small scale are quite special; they are paintings that bridge into the three-dimensional objects and are great examples of an artist working in between abstraction and figuration, a style quite popular at the moment. Phillips has been the first to bring her work to auction in New York this past spring, which was a great success.

A: The categories of media in this sale range from painting to plaster to hologram stickers to soccer balls - how do you interpret this diversity in the context of contemporary tastes? 

TK: Art nowadays very much reflects the times we live in. Artists are free to engage with an endless range of medium and processes; there are no boundaries, meaning that artists can experiment without having any constraints or fear of not being understood. There is something for everyone in Contemporary Art and, in particular, in the selection of works we bring to the audience.

A: What subject matter/themes do you see artists investigating in this particular subset of contemporary art? What do you find most intriguing?

TK: I see more and more artists engaging with video now, which is great as it can captivate the audience so powerfully. Among the impressive highlights that I have had the privilege of experiencing recently is Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife. This work is currently being shown as part of an incredible video art exhibition The Infinite Mix, organized by the Hayward Gallery in collaboration with Vinyl Factory. Another one to note is Mark Leckey’s Dream English Kid, currently on display at the Blade Factory in the Liverpool Biennial program.

A: What are some trends that you have seen within the contemporary art market this year, and how do you see them playing out as we head into 2017?

TK: There are currently great opportunities in the market for emerging artists due to the drop in prices over the past year. There is less speculative collecting activity today, which makes the market much healthier and hopefully means that there is a genuine interest in the artworks that are being purchased. Historically, the art market has always been cyclical, so as long as the artist is good, demand will come back eventually. A few examples of that are found in our Day Sale, like Hugh Scott-Douglas, David Ostrowski, Fredrik Vaerslev — great artists that I believe are undervalued at the moment.

Explore Phillips: 20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale on Artsy, and place max bids on more than 150 artworks. Live bidding opens Thursday, October 6th, at 9:00am ET. 

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