Art Market

Works by Amoako Boafo, Matthew Wong, and Titus Kaphar led Phillips’s $5.7-million “New Now” auction.

Justin Kamp
Oct 1, 2020 6:03PM, via Phillips

Amoako Boafo's Lighter, 2018. Courtesy Phillips.

Phillips’ first New York–based auction since the COVID-19 lockdown began in March achieved $5.7 million. The “New Now” sale, which was broadcast online on September 30th from the firm’s New York saleroom, was led by Amoako Boafo, Matthew Wong, and Titus Kaphar, and garnered new auction records for eight artists, including Firelei Báez, Gina Beavers, and Mauro Perucchetti, among others. The sale also saw the secondary market debut of a number of artists, including Arcmanoro Niles, Melike Kara, and Van Hanos, all of whose works beat their low estimates. Out of 185 lots on offer, 152 sold, making for a sell-through rate of 82 percent by lot.

Top lots:

  • Boafo’s Lighter (2018), continuing the breakout painter’s trend of market dominance and shattering its high estimate of $60,000 to achieve $325,000. The painting is indicative of Boafo’s signature style of vibrant, finger-painted portraiture, focusing largely on Black sitters. Boafo’s work first appeared on the secondary market in February of this year, when his painting The Lemon Bathing Suit (2019) sold at Phillips London for £675,000 ($875,144).
  • Wong’s Blue Tree (2016), which more than quadrupled its high estimate of $70,000 to sell for $300,000. The late artist’s distinctive, dreamlike landscapes have seen a steady rise in market attention since his first appearance at auction in July of this year.
  • Kaphar’s enigmatic tar portrait Study of the Suitor: Harper Caldwell Jr. (2011), which topped its high estimate of $50,000 to sell for $187,500. Kaphar, who joined Gagosian’s artist roster in April, has since received attention for his Time magazine cover focused on the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd.

Meanwhile, the auction’s eight new auction records include Báez’s Megan (lugar a dudas) (2017) which sold for $46,250, beating last year’s record of $35,000. Beavers also set a new auction record when her 2015 painting Candy Ombré Lips sold for $21,250, beating her previous record of $14,609 set earlier this year. Perucchetti nearly tripled his auction record, which previously sat at $33,750, with the sale of his 2011work Jelly Baby Family 0.9, a group of five pigmented resin figures, for $90,000.

Sam Mansour, Phillips’s head of “New Now,” New York, said of the sale:

This sale marks the first auction broadcast from Phillips’ New York saleroom in over six months and the results confirm the continued demand for emerging artists across geographies, with bidders from nearly 50 countries participating [...] Works by Amoako Boafo and Matthew Wong, who were both sold at auction for the first time in 2020, realized the top prices for the sale, each skyrocketing past their estimates. I am also happy to report that we broke eight artist records, including those for Firelei Báez, Caitlin Keogh, and Marcus Jahmal.
Justin Kamp