On the heels of Christie’s record-shattering sale of Ed Ruscha’s painting Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964) at its postwar and contemporary auction last night, Phillips achieved a $108.1 million result at its 20th-century and contemporary art evening sale in New York on Thursday. The sale fared significantly better than last year’s auction at Phillips, which brought in $88.5 million.
Almost all of the 42 lots sold, with only two works—Lygia Clark’s aluminum sculpture Bicho – O antes é o depois (1963) and Rufino Tamayo’s deep red painting Cinco Rebanadas de Sandía, which was from the collection of Florence Knoll Bassett—failing to find a buyer. The sale yielded an impressive 95 percent sell-through rate by lot, and included four house-backed lots and 12 third-party guarantees already in place.
One new auction record was set at Phillips this evening: Sean Scully’s abstract work Red Bar (2003–04), estimated at $900,000–$1.2 million, which sold for $1.76 million with buyer’s premium, generating a new auction record for the artist. And one other lot caused a bidding frenzy. Party Down (2019), a painting by Julie Curtiss, whose auction record was set earlier today at a Christie’s day sale, sold for $400,000—hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond its estimate. (That figure is still just $23,000 shy of the Christie’s record.)
The top lot of the evening was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1981 painting The Ring, which was estimated to sell for $10 million to $15 million and carried a third-party guarantee. The work, which Acquavella Galleries had offered at Frieze London last month for $16 million, sold for $15 million, and shows a figure vigorously lifting a weight, likely in reference to famed boxer Muhammad Ali, though perhaps also as an allusion to a boxing magazine of the same name.
Trailing the Basquiat was Philip Guston’s Smoking II (1973), which last…
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