Phillips’s Evening Auction Sets New Records in New York

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Portrait of Famous Ballplayer (1981). Source: Phillips

Phillips’s evening auction of Modern and Contemporary Art in New York garnered $86.3 million with fees, exceeding last year’s May auction results. Two Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings were the popular lots: “Untitled (ELMAR)” (1982) sold for $46.4 million, while “Untitled (Portrait of a Famous Ballplayer)” (1981) sold for $7.8 million.

Out of 30 lots, two were withdrawn, including a $12 million Picasso painting, another highlight of the sale. Despite these, Phillips’ evening sale began strongly.

“Untitled (Boy with Glasses)” by Noah Davis (2010) sold for $279,400 plus fees, over its estimated $150,000 to $200,000.

An online bidder in Greece paid $889,000 plus fees for Derek Fordjour’s “Numbers” (2018).

“Freedom don’t come for free” by Michaela Yearwood-Dan, which went for $381,000 with fees, met its high estimate.

Barkley L. Hendricks’ “Vendetta” (1979), which sold for $3.2 million plus fees—a little bit more than its estimated $2.5 million to $3.5 million—was a standout.

After a lengthy bidding battle, Helen Frankenthaler’s 1959 painting “Acres” sold for $3 million ($3.6 million with fees), above its $2.5 million top estimate.

Two unnamed “stack” sculptures by Donald Judd from 1978 and 1994 garnered $4.9 million ($5.9 million with fees) and $2.2 million ($2.7 million with fees), respectively.

Following the auction, Robert Manley, Deputy Chairman and Worldwide Co-Head of Phillips, expressed optimism about the art market, refuting claims of a lackluster market. He highlighted that while many prices achieved for works by artists like Frankenthaler and Jules Olitski did not break records, they still represented some of the artists’ top auction results.

Manley also noted the strong results for works by younger artists, indicating a positive trend despite a perceived cooling of the ultra-contemporary art market from its peak in 2021. He emphasized satisfaction with the robust bids for artists like Derek Fordjour and Jadé Fadojutimi, appreciating that the market remained strong without reaching unsustainable levels.

Phillips plans to auction a third Basquiat painting from Pellizzi’s collection, “Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites on Safari” (1982), in Hong Kong on May 31, with an estimated value of $12 million to $18 million. As a side note, Pellizzi acquired his three Basquiat paintings from Annina Nosei, Basquiat’s first art dealer, for $14,000, $12,000, and $6,000 respectively.


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