But to Francis Outred, the head of post-war and contemporary art for Christie’s in Europe, it was most notably a success in the context of its new approach: Christie’s is no longer treating June in London as a real sales season, but rather as a time for mid-season sales, a time when auction houses stage low-impact sales with young artists or undervalued market figures, hoping to further the market potential of day sale-level artists. Records were notched for the artists
—all artists to whom some have pointed as potential market stars who have the ability to sell for well above their high estimates during day sales. And the sale was front-loaded with work by newly buzzy market favorites such as
. Bidding on that latter group of artists brought totals above estimates, spurring on momentum.
Outred said based on its performance this time around, the “Post-War to Present” concept will become a semi-regular sale. The next one will be in New York in September, with work by older artists, as well as the emerging artists who are also featured in the already established “First Open” sales at Christie’s in New York, London, and Hong Kong.
But with Sotheby’s able to pull in $146 million in an evening sale, and Phillips breaking its own records, it seems a little glib to write off the whole season as one only for minor sales. Outred instead maintains that he very well could wrangle the top-quality works to cobble together another sale in June if he wanted to, but instead, the house chose to push those works into October and March, to lucrative effect.
“If you look at last October, Sotheby’s and Phillips, their presentations were nowhere near the level of ours, so it’s about how each auction house can maximize their approach,” he said.
Still, Outred wouldn’t unequivocally rule out the idea of bringing back the evening sale for June 2019 in London.
“We look at it on a year-by-year basis, and we curate our calendar and our auctions according to that,” he said. “We’re constantly looking at the evolution of the market.”