Auction Review: Phillips Evening & Day Editions June 2023

A series of 12 screenprints by Robert Indiana depicting the word “LOVE” in various colour-ways.The Book Of Love (complete set) © Robert Indiana 1996
Louis Denizet

Louis Denizet, Specialist[email protected]

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Market Reports

After May Marquee sales rocked the boat at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, murmurs emerged that the art market might be slowing slightly. This week, with a focus on the highly investable Prints' market, collectors gathered at Berkeley Square, London, for Phillip’s anticipated Evening & Day Editions Sale.

Across the two sales, prints and multiples from a cohort of deeply established blue chip artists were offered. The main portion of covetable prints by value were sold in the Evening Sale - a model typically reserved for Post War & Contemporary masterworks - where the contentious issue of prints being suitable at auction was made ever more evident by some disappointing bidding. With 66% of lots falling below mid- or low-estimates at the Evening Sale alone, sellers are bound to have been slightly disappointed with hammer prices for such era-defining works, many selling just shy of reserves. However, the blame falls with the auction model itself: inhibiting fair market value in editioned works and restricting the ability for them to soar above estimates.

Across both sales, American Pop Artists made their presence known with strong performances from Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein. Additionally Robert Indiana, fellow member of the American Pop Comrades, took the spotlight for the highest selling work in part 1 of the sale. The Book Of Love (1996), a comprehensive collection of 12 “LOVE” screen prints achieved a record price, swiftly surpassing presale expectations, selling for an impressive £158,750 (price realised) - 56% above its high estimate of £80,000.

Indeed, appetite most certainly persists in this lucrative segment of the market, and demand remains high for such era-defining artists. As seasoned collectors are aware however, auction offers only a fraction of the market opportunity. As a comparables market, the segment for Prints & Multiples presents greater opportunities than that of originals and uniques - and private sale allows for greater access and control for both buyers and sellers.

Here are the highlights from both parts of the auction:

Evening Sale

  1. Presale estimate: £1,547,000 - £2,223,000
  2. Sales total (hammer): £1,803,300
  3. Lots sold: 69/81
  4. Sell-through rate: 85%
  5. Above high estimate: 31.88%
  6. Within or below low estimate: 66.66%

Within the first half of this sale, 69 of the 81 offered lots were sold with an 85% sell-through rate. However, out of these sold works only 31.88% achieved sales above their high presale estimate. Across these lots, 50.72% were sold within their presale estimates and 15.94% fell below estimates altogether. The results speak to the unsuitability of auction sales for this segment of the market, and are not reflective of the lucrative opportunities Prints & Multiples present in private sales.

ANDY WARHOL

The star of the evening was - unsurprisingly - Andy Warhol who, in the eight lots sold in this portion of the sale, achieved a total sales turnover (hammer) of £404,000. As expected, the two iconic Marilyn prints offered stole the show, with both exceeding their high presale estimates considerably. Bidding began at £55,000 for Warhol’s Marilyn (F. & S. 28), and soared 36% above the high estimate of £80,000 - finally realising £120,650. Likewise, Marilyn (F. & S. 27) - despite a humble estimate of £50,000-£70,000, hammered 43% above the high estimate and realised £127,000. While neither of these sales marked a record, their success is a testament to prevailing popularity of Warhol’s icons.

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KEITH HARING

Five works by Keith Haring were also offered at the Evening Sale, which achieved a total sales turnover (hammer) of £105,000. Particularly popular were single plates from Haring’s legendary Pop Shop series, which continue to play a dominant role in the Pop Artist’s thriving market. Notably, Pop Shop I, Plate III soared well above the high presale estimate of £20,000 and realised £38,100. The sale marked the second highest price for this print at auction, with the record and most recent sale of the work being achieved at Phillips London in September 2022 for £40,320 (fees included). Both of the other Pop Shop prints proffered at the Evening Sale reached above their high estimates, proving both the cultural and financial value of this seminal series.

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ROY LICHTENSTEIN

The Godfather of American Pop, Roy Lichtenstein, also performed at the Evening Sale. Three of the Pop Artist’s works sold, with two achieving record auction prices. Bidding started at the high estimate of £15,000 for his Modern Head #1, from his compelling Modern Head series, hammering for 13% above the high estimate and realising £21,590. Likewise his Reflections On Brushstrokes - a work which toys with the traditional medium of painting - also achieved a record price. The work hammered at the high presale estimate of £30,000, realising £38,100.

Lichtenstein’s most successful sale of the evening was his I Love Liberty, a work which distils the American spirit at the core of Pop Art. The homage to the Statue of Liberty realised £57,150, hammering 29% above high estimate. Though the work didn’t achieve a record price, the healthy sale certainly speaks to the lucrative nature of the Lichtenstein market - and indeed the market for American Pop at large.

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YAYOI KUSAMA

Quintessential to Yayoi Kusama’s psychedelic and dream-fuelled oeuvre, works from her collection of Pumpkins performed valiantly at the Evening Sale. All four of the Pumpkin works offered at the sale hammered just below or over their high presale estimates, revealing the integral nature of these works and their highly covetable status among Kusama collectors. Kusama’s PUMPKIN YOR-A (K.325) performed particularly well, hammering 60% above the high presale estimate and realising £40,640. Despite the high volume of such prints available on the secondary market, Kusama’s Pumpkins hold a special place in the artist’s ever-growing body of work and continue to command collectors' attention.

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BANKSY

Though Banksy’s Banksquiat was passed at this auction, the rest of the elusive Street Artist’s works offered at the Evening Sale hammered within their presale estimates. Unsurprisingly, Banksy’s infamous Girl With Balloon fetched the highest price and realised a healthy £82,550. Also from the artist’s tongue-in-cheek oeuvre, Jack & Jill (Police Kids) hammered within the presale estimate of £20,000-£30,000 at £26,000 - realising £33,020. This sale was reflective of the overall nature of the Banksy market in 2023 thus far, which shows signs of maturing since the overheated market of 2021/2022. Even with the unsuccessful sale of Banksquiat the appetite for his politically charged screenprints is still evident by collectors boasting his overall performance.

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Day Sale

  1. Presale estimate: £511,600 - £750,400
  2. Sales total (hammer): £671,100
  3. Lots sold: 200
  4. Sell-through rate: 92%
  5. Above high estimate: 37%
  6. Within or below low estimate: 63%

The Editions Sale continued on 8 June for the Day portion of the sale, which saw a healthy sell-through rate of 92%. Like the Evening Sale however, the proportion of works which exceeded their high presale estimates was lower than those which sat within or below estimates. Though the works offered in this half of the sale were estimated at lower prices, fewer works captured the attention of bidders to drive prices. However certain key players performed formidably, with some Contemporary artists announcing their prowess in the current market with healthy results.

BRIDGET RILEY

Modern British Master, Bridget Riley, performed admirably across both portions of the sale. Though just three works were offered in the Day Sale, Riley achieved a total sales turnover (hammer) of £47,500. Particularly popular were the two works from her Coloured Greys series, characterised by oscillating lines in hues of grey which optically challenge their viewer. Coloured Greys 1 massively exceeded its humble presale estimate of £3,000-£5,000 and realised an impressive £15,240. Likewise, Coloured Greys 2 reached above the high estimate of £7,000 and realised £12,065 - setting a record price for the illusory print at auction. Much like her fellow catalyst of contemporary art, David Hockney, Riley’s market continues to prove its unshakable nature throughout 2023.

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INVADER

Though American Pop certainly garnered the greater success over the two portions of this Editions Sale, several Urban & Contemporary artists proved their status in the market. The nostalgic and playful works of anonymous Street Artist Invader proved particularly popular at the Day Sale, with all of his works hammering either within or above their presale estimates. The artist’s eponymously titled Invasion Kits performed exceptionally well. Invasion Kit #05 hammered above the high estimate of £7,000 and realised £11,430, while bidding started at the high estimate for Invasion Kit #11 and realised £16,510. Invader’s healthy performance across both portions of the sale attest to his status within the Urban Art scene, and the covetable nature of his works as both art and collectible components of his “World Invasion”.

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Eight screenprints by Thierry Noir depicting cartoon heads in different bright colour-ways.East Side Heads © Thierry Noir 2014

THIERRY NOIR - ARTIST TO WATCH

Across both portions of the Phillips Editions Sale, rising star of the Contemporary Art scene Thierry Noir performed exceptionally. One of Noir's works was offered at the Evening Sale, East Side Heads, a collection of eight vibrant screenprints which speak to the artists lively and playful oeuvre. The complete set hammered 73% above its high estimate of £15,000 and realised an astonishing £33,020 during the first appearance of the complete set at auction.

Noir's success continued during the Day Sale, where all three of his works were subject to competitive bidding. Noir's Fast Form Manifest hammered beyond its high presale estimate and fetched £6,985 with fees included.

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Prints & Multiples: Private Sale vs Auction

Indeed, appetite most certainly persists in this lucrative segment of the market, and demand remains high for such era-defining artists. As seasoned collectors are aware however, auction offers only a fraction of the market opportunity. As a comparables market, the segment for Prints & Multiples presents greater opportunities than that of originals and uniques - and private sale allows for greater access and control for both buyers and sellers.

Despite the positive sell-through rates witnessed at both portions of the Phillips sale, the proportion of works which failed to reach and exceed estimates speaks to the unsuitability of this model for the Prints & Editions market. With a 7% increase in the dealer sector since 2022, more and more collectors and investors are increasingly turning to private sale to buy, sell, and trade their prints. By prioritising transparency of information and championing access to a network of collectors, platforms like ours can facilitate sales without surprises and ensure the best deal possible.

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