Early-career female artists and British artists were the darlings of today’s auction of 20th century and contemporary art at Phillips in London, but they were never more than secondary in everyone’s mind. Hours before the sale, the auction house announced that it would donate all of its revenue from buyer’s bonuses and seller’s commissions to Red Cross efforts in Ukraine.
“It is important to recognize the unusual and frankly horrific scenes in Ukraine,” Stephen Brooks, managing director of the auction house, said at a press conference after the sale. “The Ukrainian Red Cross is doing an incredible job of supporting and protecting people in the area, and we hope that the buyer’s bonus and seller’s commission from tonight’s evening sale will help this amazing charity as ‘She’s continuing her lifesaving work,’ he said. in a previous statement.
The £5.8million donation comes after the auction house, which is owned by Russian company The Mercury Group, posted a Ukrainian flag on Instagram along with a statement from Brooks “unequivocally” condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The first lots inspired meteoric bidding from bidders from New York, the UK and Hong Kong, but also from competing collectors from France, Germany and Samoa. The First Batch, Lauren Quin’s Churning air sickness (2021, is £30,000-£50,000), the artist’s first auction, doubled its high estimate in less than a minute thanks to a flurry of online bidding. At around three minutes, the canvas was up to six times higher than the high estimate. The photo ultimately fetched £350,000 (£441,000 including fees), from an online bidder in Samoa.
The second batch, the 2017 canvas by Doron Langberg Amy in her studio (estimated at £30,000-50,000) inspired an equally heated competition, with interested parties parrying bids for the phones online at every turn, until a phone collector in New York landed the solemn job and silencer for £130,000 (£163,000 with costs).
The fast pace continued throughout the first nine batches, most of which were by artists working in the fashionable figurative trend that has dominated auction rooms in recent years and, for the moment, shows no signs of slowing down. The haunting of Cinga Samson Ubuhle bekanyezi VIII (2017, is £50,000-£70,000) hammered to £200,000 (£250,000 with fees), well above its high estimate.
The first of two works by Jadé Fadojutimi, My cover has a possessive nature (estimated at £120,000-180,000), proved that the artist’s work still inspires bidding battles. In less than 20 seconds, nine offers in quick succession pushed the boldly textured and colored artwork beyond its high estimate. In just over three minutes and after a quick battle between a telephone bidder in Germany and a telephone buyer in London, the painting left for London for £420,000 (£529,200 including postage).
Although David Hockney Self-portrait on the terrace (estimated between £4-6m) was apparently one of the highlights of the sale, with the canvas selling at a mid-price, selling for the low estimate on the nose (£4.8m with costs). The real star was, not too surprisingly here, Issy Wood, who hit his world auction record with his 2019 oil-on-velvet work depicting an extreme close-up of a pair of black leather gloves, Chalet (estimated between £100,000 and £150,000). After fierce bidding from Barbados, London, Hong Kong and Paris, three phone buyers stayed the course, with the photo ultimately fetching £350,000 (£441,000 with fees) from a phone buyer in London.
ChaletThe buyer had a good day. The enterprising collector bid and won two other new works at the sale: the colorful Curve (2017) by artist Shara Hughes for £500,000 (estimated £180,000-250,000), and Cecily Brown’s frenetic When time ran out for £2.6m (£3.16m with costs, estimated £2-3m).
Overall, the sale went well, despite the considerable drop in temperature after the first ten lots; thereafter, many works only barely reach their estimates thanks to a handful of auctions. The sale reached a total of £30m, selling 95% per lot with four works withdrawn due, presumably, to less than stellar market interest.
At the post-sale press conference, Brooks was asked if Phillips monitored buyers to ensure that no sanctioned Russian citizens could bid or buy a work. The house “does not deal with anyone subject to sanctions,” he said, noting that there are very extensive compliance processes the company goes through for this very reason.
The sale was the latest in a series of major nightly auctions in London this week. On Tuesday, Sotheby’s fetched a total of £249million in a five-hour marathon sale that kicked off in Shanghai. On Wednesday, Christie’s take totaled £221million over a pair of back-to-back auctions that took place in a relatively reasonable three-and-a-half hours.