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Picasso, Matisse & Bradford: Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary (London)

March 12, 2018


There was one last sale in the Contemporary series in London… the Evening sale at Phillips, and while we do not always cover Phillips Auction this one was deserving… In fact, their 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening sale set a new record for any sale held by the company. I should probably stress the fact that this Phillips sale included both Modern works, which are typically sold alongside Impressionist works, and Contemporary…


Leading the evening was Pablo Picasso’s La Dormeuse, finding a buyer at £41.9M ($57.8M), which absolutely demolished the £12-18M estimate. That work alone accounted for 43% of the entire evening sale! Surprisingly, Phillips was able to secure the work without guaranteeing it – something they often have to do in order to secure works over the competition. Nu allonge, a sculpture by Henri Matisse, sold for £14.9M ($20M – est. £5-7M)… the 1907 bronze was one of the first cast from an edition of 10 and has been unseen since it was exhibited in 1917. Helter Skelter, a massive canvas by Mark Bradford coming from John McEnroe’s collection, rounded out the top three at £8.7M ($12M – est. £6-8M). The work by Bradford, executed in just 2007, measured a whopping 144 x 407 7/8 inches… going to need some big walls for that one! Of course, there were a handful of failures – the only two works by Warhol (both estimated at £1.4-1.8M) in the


sale remained unsold at the end of the evening, along with pieces by Fontana and Kandinsky. Interestingly, one of the Warhol’s and the Kandinsky were scrubbed from Phillips’ website and the lots are listed as “no longer available”… gotta love transparency in the art market!

As I said earlier, this was a very strong sale by Phillips’ standards… 44 of the 50 (88%) of the works on the block found a buyer and the total on the evening was £97.7M ($135), when it was only expected to bring between £51.2-73.1M. All that said… what a difference one Picasso painting can make!