Contemporary Art Market Karma at Phillips de Pury Pt. 2 –

phillips de pury auction Contemporary Art Market Karma at Phillips de Pury Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.comMy last post was the beginning of my analysis of the auction house Phillips de Pury and their status in the current market.  I finished that post by revealing one method that Phillips use to try and maintain as strong a presence as the can in the niche that they operate within – that method being the nurturing of emerging artists who they believe are worthy of the attention.  Another way that Phillips try and justify their presence in a market where competition from the primary gallery sector is fierce is by offering works at auction by artists whose work would otherwise be unavailable to the general public.  Top works by the hottest contemporary artists are usually in very short supply and are often supplied to only the very best clients of the top galleries before they even go on display, which means that owners of works by such artists who are wanting to sell will likely get a good price at auction.  This brings me to the next strategy that Phillips utilise: providing minimum price guarantees to vendors via third party guarantors as encouragement to sell with them.  Taking their recent 27 June 2011 Contemporary Art Evening Sale as an example, Phillips solicited third party guarantees for five of the most highly valued lots. The guaranteed lots were:

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Self-Portrait, 1985 which sold for £2,057,250 against an estimate of £2,000,000-3,000,000

Mark Tansey’s Library (of Babylon), 1994 which sold for £1,161,250 against an estimate of £1,200,000–1,800,000

Urs Fischer’s Thank You Fuck You, 2007 which sold for £657,250  against an estimate of £600,000–800,000

Cecily Brown’s I Will Not Paint Any More Boring Leaves (2), 2004 which sold for £529,250 against an estimate of £350,000–450,000

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #4, 1977 which had an estimate of £250,000–350,000

Interestingly, the work by Cindy Sherman was withdrawn prior to auction due to a similar work being seen for sale at Art Basel shortly before Phillips’ auction was due to take place.  Such a move shows how highly orchestrated art auctions really are.

Competing in such a volatile market means that Phillips de Pury have had to make some serious sacrifices in order to maintain a strong presence in the contemporary art market and secure works of art for auction that will have a positive effect on their reputation.  It has been reported in the past that Phillips have gone as far as to take a financial interest in works (ie. become part owners) that they knew they would not profit from just to have the opportunity to sell that work at auction and have that work associated with their business.  As the market for contemporary art expands and evolves to their favour, Phillips will be hoping that they won’t have to take such extreme measures in the future.

Although the need to knowingly take on financial risk that will not pay off may become unnecessary, the need to sell works of contemporary art that have dropped in value since last appearing at auction is unlikely to diminish.  Phillips’  Contemporary Art Part II
13 May 2011 auction included a particularly good example of a work that had experienced a reduction in value since last appearing at auction.  Matthias Weischer’s Untitled, 2003 was auctioned by Phillips in 2007 at which time it sold for $421,000 against an estimate of $300,000-400,000.  This work reappeared at Phillips Contemporary Art Part II 13 May 2011 auction where it was given a lower estimate of $250,000-350,000  and only fetched $302,500.  Having to sell a work of art for a client for less than they sold it to them for give years prior must have been a little bit humiliating for Phillips yet is something that I am sure that they are used to dealing with.    Because the contemporary art market is volatile by nature, a reduction in the number of works being consigned to auction that have dropped in value is highly unlikely.

to be continued…………………

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.comt Contemporary Art Market Karma at Phillips de Pury Pt. 2 –, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.


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