Jean-Michel Basquiat, Flexible, 1984. Courtesy of Phillips.
Phillips’s 20th Century & Contemporary art evening sale brought in $131.5 million with fees—a solid total, considering two big lots failed to find buyers. The sell through rate across 35 lots was strong 91%, through three lots—a Zeng Fanzhi, a David Hammons, and a Sigmar Polke—were withdrawn before the auction.
While the figure is below the record $135.1 million Phillips sale in London this past March, its highest ever, it is up 19.5% compared to the same sale in New York last year, which totaled $110 million with fees and boasted a 100% sell through rate on 37 lots.
One of the most anticipated lots of tonight’s auction, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Flexible (1984), sold for $45.3 million, with fees. The work was estimated to sell for $20 million, and auctioneer Henry Highley opened the bidding at $15 million. Phillips’s deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of contemporary art Robert Manley immediately jumped to $30 million, provoking gasps in the sale room. A few simultaneous phone bids were beat back by Jeffrey Deitch, who entered the fray from his seat on the aisle, calmly putting forth a $35 million bid in his pinstripe suit. But Miety Heiden, Phillips’s deputy chairman and head of private sales, placed $36 million on behalf of her phone bidder, and Deitch was out. From there the house’s worldwide co-head of contemporary art Jean-Paul Engelen came in at $37 million with worldwide deputy chairman Svetlana Marich stewing with not one but two cellphones propped to her ears, telling Highley to wait. But she never got a bid in, as Heiden went to $38 million, Engelen went to $39 million, and Heiden went to $40 million, where the Basquiat hammered to applause.
Not all lots were as beset with bidders as the Basquiat, however. When Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (811-2) (1994) came up at lot 13 it stalled at $10 million, and Highley declared it a pass. Five lots later, Sigmar Polke’s Stadtbild II (City Painting II) (1968) came up but no one bit at the $11 million offered by the auctioneer and it also became a pass. The two eight figure losses cut significantly into the night’s final haul.
Here is a rundown of how a few other significant works in tonight’s Phillips auction faired:
Following his record breaking sale Wednesday night at Sotheby’s, Kerry James Marshall’s Untitled (Blanket Couple) (2014) sold for a hammer price of $3.5 million ($4.3 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $3.5 million and $5.5 million.
Jenny Holzer’s Truisms: UNEX sign (1983) sold for a hammer price of $380,000 ($471,000 with fees). It carried an estimate between $150,000 and $200,000.
Pat Steir’s Elective Affinity Waterfall (1992) sold for $1.9 million ($2.3 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $600,000 and $800,000.
Robert Motherwell’s At Five in the Afternoon (1971) sold for a hammer price of $11 million ($12.7 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $12 million and $18 million.
Mark Bradford’s Black Venus (2005) sold for a hammer price of $5.1 million ($6 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $5 million and $7 million.
Cady Noland’s Tower of Terror (1993–94) sold for a hammer price of $2 million ($2.4 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $2 million and $3 million.
Andy Warhol’s Last Supper (1986) sold for a hammer price of $7.5 million ($8.75 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $8 million and $12 million.
Warhol’s 16 Flowers (1965) sold for a hammer price of TK ($5.3 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $5 million and $7 million.
Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attese (1964–65) sold for a hammer price of $2.5 million ($3 million with fees). It carried an estimate between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.