Phillips grew not by expanding its offerings into markets long dominated by its rivals, but by narrowing its focus and doubling down on art of the last 100 years. That way, the house can expend all of its energy on the collectors who flock to it—particularly those in Asia, who can now buy works at the new headquarters Phillips opened in Hong Kong in March 2018.
“It’s been an extraordinary year at Phillips,” Edward Dolman, the Phillips CEO, said in a statement. “Our strategy of focusing exclusively on the 20th and 21st centuries, our continued expansion in Asia, and our move to increase our Modern Art offerings have all played a role in our remarkable growth. We continue to attract the most experienced and dynamic talent in the auction world, and our digital offering remains the most innovative in the business.”
Dolman has been given much of the credit for the house’s whiplash transformation. While things are looking up at the moment, just four years ago, the grand total of a high-profile 47-lot evening sale at Phillips during Frieze London topped out at an embarrassing $21 million, with 10 lots—including some of the biggest-ticket works—failing to sell. Since coming on board in 2014, the former Christie’s CEO has lured away old colleagues such as Jean-Paul Engelen and Robert Manley, and hired Cheyenne Westphal, Scott Nussbaum, and Jonathan Crockett away from Sotheby’s.