Later that evening, Sotheby’s achieved more modest prices at its Contemporary Art Evening Sale, where the total takings of £36.4million ($56.3million) came in just above the sale’s low estimate of £32.9 ($52.9 million). Seventy-two percent of lots sold. The sale’s top result was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (the Black Athlete) (1982), which went for a mid-estimate £4.1 million ($6.3 million)—the piece went unsold last time it came to auction, 11 years ago. Sotheby’s rounded off its big week with Friday’s Contemporary Art Day Sale, where Roy Lichtenstein’s pixelated Hot Dog went for £449,000 ($695,097), more than double its low estimate and an untitled Anish Kapoor dish sold for an above-estimate £461,000 ($713,674).
“We have definitely seen in London an extraordinary level of numbers across the week; so many of the world’s top collectors were here,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art, London. “Frieze definitely attracts an incredible crowd, and we’ve certainly benefitted from that. Conversely, there’s a lot of art on the market at the moment, and a lot of choice as well.”
Phillips sold an impressive 100% of its lots at its Contemporary Evening Sale on Wednesday, netting £31.5 million ($47.8 million) that night, and totaling £38.5 million ($58.6 million) for the entire week. The top lot was an untitled Cy Twombly from 2006, which changed hands for £7.9 million ($12 million), just below its low estimate of £8 million ($12.4 million). The evening featured work from the estate of the late plastic surgeon Dr. Frederic Brandt—which Phillips had won a competition to sell by guaranteeing a third-party minimum price for the work. (It was just one lot of a rumored half of the sale to be guaranteed.)
In doing so, the auction house evidenced what The New York Times called last month
the “proliferation of high value guarantees…and the complex financial arrangements that go with them.” Such situations may necessitate a third party partnering with an auction house to anonymously maintain minimum prices during an auction, guaranteeing a certain spend on a transaction.
“We utilized a guarantee to help us win the business,” said Matt Carey-Williams, Phillips’s Deputy Chairman, Europe & Asia, of the Brandt deal. “We partnered with someone on a third-party guarantee basis to get that done. It was an individual. Guarantees, whether in-house or third-party, are a vehicle that we use at all auction houses to enable us to win the consignments that we win.”