Art Market

Works by Emily Mae Smith and Portia Zvavahera achieved new auction records at Phillips.

Justin Kamp
Oct 21, 2020 9:23PM, via Phillips

Emily Mae Smith's Alien Shores, 2018. Courtesy Phillips.

Phillips’s 20th century and contemporary evening sale closed in London on Tuesday, achieving a total of £26.3 million ($34 million). 36 out of 38 lots sold, for a sell-through rate of 95 percent by lot. The auction was led with works by Georg Baselitz, George Condo, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and saw new auction records for Emily Mae Smith and Portia Zvavahera.

Baselitz’s haunting portrait Das letzte Selbstbildnis I (1982) notched the highest price of the evening, selling for £4.9 million ($6.4 million), squarely within its estimate of £4.7 million—6 million ($6 million—7.7 million). It was followed by another fiery large-scale portrait, Condo’s The Age of Reason (2010), which sold for £2.2 million ($2.9 million). Basquiat’s indexical Untitled (Pestus)(1982) sold for £2.2 million ($2.8 million). The rest of the top ten was rounded out by artists including Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Banksy, and Sean Scully, with only Banksy and Scully beating the high estimates for their work.

The sale also saw a number of new auction records. Smith’s surreal 2018 painting Alien Shores more than quadrupled its high estimate of £60,000 ($77,800) to sell for £277,200 ($359,300), nearly doubling her previous record of $187,500, set at Christie’s New York in July. The Zimbabwean artist Zvavahera’s dreamlike ink-and-oil work Arising from the Unknown (2019) sold for £163,800 ($212,300), beating her previous record of ZAR$352,780 ($21,100) by a factor of 10.

According to Artsy data, inquiries on works by all three artists on the platform are on track to double this year. Demand for works by Smith have seen a particularly dramatic surge on Artsy, with the number of inquiries thus far this year already more than 13 times what they were two years ago.

Other significant sales include works by Salman Toor and Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, both of whom saw their secondary market debut this year. Toor’s Aashiana (Hearth and Home) (2012) beat its high estimate of £50,000 ($64,800) to sell for £138,600 ($179,600), while Quaicoe’s 2019 portrait Black Stripes on White tripled its high estimate of £30,000 ($38,800) to sell for £94,500 ($122,500). Dana Schutz’s satirical Trump Descending an Escalator (2017) also beat its high estimate of £580,000 ($751,800), selling for £688,000 ($891,800).

Kate Bryan, Phillips’s head of 20th Century and contemporary art evening sale, said in a statement:

Stepping away from traditions, our purpose-built saleroom in London brought us ever-closer to our growing community of collectors, with 35 countries participating and notably strong online bidding activity from across Asia. We took great pride in offering works of exceptional provenance, including Georg Baselitz’s Das letzte Selbstbildnis I from the Collection of Marcel Brient, which achieved the third highest price for the artist at auction. Choosing the right artists is key and we saw the sale open with a great depth of bidding for the front run of highly sought-after names, resulting in world auction records for Emily Mae Smith and Portia Zvavahera. Titus Kaphar’s Alternate Endings sold to an online bidder in Japan for eight times the estimate.
Justin Kamp
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019