On September 14th and 15th, Phillips London hosted their Evening and Day Edition sales. Over two sales spanning seven hours total, 233 lots crossed the block, resulting in exceptional results for Phillips. The Evening Edition sale on September 14th featured some more valuable pieces, with Phillips specialists predicting hundreds of thousands of pounds each for a small handful of lots.
That evening, the top lot was Roy Lichtenstein’s Water Lilies with Willows, a large piece of screenprinted enamel on stainless steel created in 1992. It was expected to be the most valuable lot of the sale, an expectation it upheld when it reached its low estimate of £300K / $347K (or £378K / $437.3K w/p). Coming up in second, as predicted by the house experts, was Thrower (Grey) by Banksy. The image of a masked rioter in the action of throwing a bouquet as if it’s a rock or Molotov cocktail was originally created as a mural in 2007 when Banksy visited the West Bank. It has since become one of the British street artist’s most recognizable and replicated images. This rendition created in 2019 features the subject divided up in a triptych of micron boards of varying sizes. It ended up falling within its £150K to £200K estimate when the hammer came down at £170K / $196.6K (or £214.2K / $247.8 w/p). However, while Phillips was expecting big things from other Lichtenstein and Banksy works, one lot came up from behind and stole the spotlight. Created by Damien Hirst just last year, The Virtues (consisting of eight laminated giclée prints), sold for £120K / $138.8K (or £151.2K / $174.9 w/p), nearly double its £70K high estimate.
The evening sale was expected to bring in anywhere between £1.4M and £2.07M. With twenty-eight of the available sixty-two lots falling within estimate, and an additional twenty-six selling for over estimate, the evening sale fell comfortably on the high end at £1.8M, while the specialists earned a 45% accuracy rate. Only a single lot failed to sell, giving the first sale a 98% sold rate.
The Day Edition sale was far longer, with a larger number of lower-priced works up for grabs. But while Phillips specialists were very good with predicting the top lots for the evening sale, the Day Edition was completely different. While the experts’ estimates placed screenprints by Robert Motherwell and Damien Hirst at the very top, the stars of the day sale ended up being a small handful of lots that greatly exceeded expectations. In first place, coming in towards the end of the sale, was the Keith Haring screenprint Pop Shop I. Measuring only 12 x 15 inches, the relatively small 1987 print is unmistakably Haring, featuring the colorful humanoid outlines that have become the most identifiable hallmark of his work. What the house experts originally predicted would sell for no more than £8K ended up in the sights of several bidders, who drove up the price to four times its high estimate at £32K.
Then there were two prints, also towards the end of the sale, by the contemporary British artist Julian Opie. The prints, in back-to-back lots, are the sixth and seventh entries of the series known as Bijou Gets Undressed, created in 2004. Each print contains five renditions of the same minimalistic female figure in the process of removing her clothing. Bijou Gets Undressed 6 and Bijou Gets Undressed 7 sold for £19K and £18K, respectively, while each was only expected to sell for £7K at most. And finally, another unexpected member of the sales top lots: the Joan Miró lithograph Pierrot le Fou. Created in 1964, the print is a good example of Miró’s tendency towards abstractionism in his later life. Perhaps this recognizable abstract style caused the print to tie for third at £18K / $20.7K (£22.68K / $26.1K w/p), triple its £6K high estimate. In total, the second sale did very well, exceeding the original £693.2K high total presale estimate and bringing in £807K / $928.5K. Out of one hundred seventy-one available lots, only ten failed to sell, giving the sale a 94% sold rate. The house specialists also did well, with fifty-six lots (33%) falling within estimate. An additional seventy-six lots (44%) exceeded their estimates, while only twenty-nine lots (17%) fell short but sold regardless.
Overall, Phillips did incredibly well in this enormous sale. Across the two sales, two hundred thirty-three lots crossed the block, with only eleven lots (5%) being bought in. 44% of the lots sold over estimate, while 36% sold within. The total fell on the higher end of the presale estimate range, bringing in £2.63M or $3M for Phillips.