The “New Now” sale at Phillips brought in $6.4 million in New York on Wednesday, establishing auction records for a number of emerging artists and artists from Cuba. The sale was led by Yayoi Kusama’s painting Butterfly (1982), which sold for $375,000—well over its $250,000 high pre-sale estimate—and indicated that there is intense secondary market interest in an artist who, with her new museum and gallery shows, often commands lines around the block.
- The sale was marked by sales of eight works by KAWS, the graffiti artist-turned-sculptor who has become a global art sensation—he has 1.4 million followers on Instagram, more than Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips combined. An untitled painting from 2014 sold for $200,000, over a high estimate of $150,000.
- The “New Now” sale serves as a showcase for younger artists making their auction debuts or setting new high marks. The opening lot was the first appearance at auction for a work by the artist Borna Sammak, who shows at revered galleries such as New York’s JTT and London’s Sadie Coles HQ, and new auction records were set for Emily Mae Smith, Beverly Pepper, and the Cuban artists Belkis Ayón and Yoan Capote.
- It was also an opportunity for new collectors to try out buying at auction at an approachable price point. A Christian Holstad work sold for $625, and a photo composition by Robert Melee sold for $313.
In a press release, Sam Mansour, the head of the sale, said: “The middle market remains a vibrant area for collectors across the globe, with bidders from over forty countries vying for works by emerging and established artists alike.”