Auctioneer Phillips’ expansion extends to Hong Kong, with first art sale announced
Russian-owned Phillips seeks bigger share of 20th-century and contemporary art and design auction market, and November sale encompasses both Western and Asian lots, a break with rivals’ practice
Phillips, the 220-year-old London auction house that is expanding internationally under Russian ownership, is to hold its first major sales in Hong Kong in spite of continuing macroeconomic uncertainties that may curb collectors’ enthusiasm.
Phillips’ chairman and CEO Ed Dolman said the art market was “extremely resilient” and that Hong Kong would remain one of “the main art markets in the world” despite “softness” in the Chinese economy. “Asian buyers now make up roughly 10 to 15 per cent of our sales in New York and London by value,” he said.
In 2012, Russian luxury retailer Mercury Group took full ownership of the auction house by buying out star auctioneer Simon de Pury’s stake and changed the name from Phillips de Pury & Co. Since then, Phillips has expanded its offices in London and New York and is now trying to secure a larger share of the 20th-century and contemporary art and design auction market, its forte. Its Asian headquarters opened last summer in The Landmark in Central, and to date it has held two watch sales in Hong Kong.
Phillips’ evening sale in Hong Kong on November 27 is to feature an international mix of lots reflective of current Asian tastes, Dolman said. The inclusion of both Asian and Western paintings, photographs and design pieces is a break with what most auction houses in Hong Kong did in the past, which was focus on selling Asian art, jewellery, watches, wine and handbags.
Phillips is also slated to hold jewellery and watch sales in the city on November 28 and 29.
Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild 776-1 (1992), estimated at HK$18 million to HK$25 million before buyer’s premium, is to come under the hammer at the November 27 sale. Richter, one of the most celebrated living artists in Europe, has many Asian collectors, and they have helped drive up the prices of his works in recent years. In October, Sotheby’s will auction another Richter in a special sale curated by K-pop megastar T.O.P., who is a fan.
The same sale is to feature a photograph by Nick Knight, the legendary British fashion photographer who directed the video for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Sander (1992), shot for a Jil Sander campaign, is valued at HK$420,000 to HK$620,000.
Other sale highlights include a work by groundbreaking American furniture designer Wendell Castle. His Ghost Rider (2010) features a seat shaped like a motorcycle and valued at HK$1 million to HK$1.5 million. Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets (1990), also on offer, is estimated at between HK$1.2 million and HK$1.8 million.
The high-end art market has not been immune to the uncertainties created by the upcoming US presidential election, the recent UK vote for Brexit, and China’s economic slowdown. The last European Fine Art Foundation annual report stated art sales were down 7 per cent last year from 2014, while a recent report by Artprice.com found a 25 per cent tumble in art sales over the first six months of the year.