Unlike at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, where there was an almost complete lack of bidding by Asian specialists, several lots at Phillips on Thursday night had interest coming from the region that has become vitally important to the health of the global art market. Jonathan Crockett, who is the house’s head of 20th-century and contemporary art for Asia, secured a
work from the artist’s estate, Untitled (Velveteen)
(1984), for a £1.5 million ($2 million) hammer price, or £1.9 million ($2.5 million) with fees, after a long scrap with a bidder in the room and senior international specialist Peter Sumner. In addition, the auctioneer, Henry Highly, announced that an online bidder on ’s Sham Marriage
(2013) was coming from Taiwan; that lot eventually sold to Kevie Yang, a senior specialist who works closely with Asian clients. ’s May Day V
(2006) was purchased for a £400,000 ($526,000) hammer, or £495,000 ($649,000) with fees, by a client on the phone with Kyoko Hattori, Phillips’s regional director for Japan.
But signs of participation from Asian collectors are not quite sufficient to jolt the market to life after a week where all three houses were down from the contemporary sales a year ago. It’s not yet time to pull the fire alarm and declare that we’re undergoing a full correction, but this could point to a more beleaguered market than in years past. Heading into the May sales in New York, the auction houses may have to temper their expectations.