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Art Market

Phillips Kicks Off London Auction Season With £16.5 Million Sale

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Phillips Kicks Off London Auction Season With £16.5 Million Sale
Rashid Johnson, "Sun Goddess," 2009

Phillips kicked off the fall contemporary art auctions in London this week with a respectable £16.5 million sale that set eight new artist records—for Fischli & Weiss, Rashid Johnson, Billy Childish, Matias Faldbakken, and others.

At the two-part event, which took place last night and this afternoon, crumpled, dirtied and ashy-colored canvases abounded. Abstract painter Ryan Sullivan, for one, sold a rippling latex canvas done in earth tones that resemble a topographical map for £98,500—just eking past his previous auction record.

Meanwhile, a smudged white painting by Oscar Murillo raced past its £20,000-£30,000 estimate to total £134,500—a feat that has become commonplace for Murillo in recent months and is reminiscent of yesteryear auction star Jacob Kassay (who merely doubled Phillips’s £15,000 low estimate for one of his signature silver monochromes). A chromatic gray painting, this time by Gerhard Richter, became the evening’s top lot when upstart dealer Vito Schnabel placed the winning bid of £2.4 million. 

A few figurative sculptures surpassed expectations as well. Catalan artist Jaume Plensa’s human form built from small steel letters doubled its estimate to reach £194,500 today, and the Swiss duo Fischli & Weiss’s plaster sculpture of a stewardess equally surpassed expectations with its £290,500 total, making it the top lot of the day. But the real highlight for the pair came last night, when Phillips set a new artist record with the sale of their absurdist raft of objects, including a brood of suckling piglets, for £602,500.

The other artist records came in for Rashid Johnson's large-scale sculptural composition Sun Goddess, selling for £122,500; Faldbakken's black tape-on-canvas, Untitled, 2009, for £56,250; Hugh Scott-Douglas's cyan-blue printed monochrome, for £27,500; Dan Rees's triptych of splattered modeling clay on wood, for £74,500; Gelitin's chaotic, childlike plasticine tableau from 2008, for £27,500; and Childish's 2007 painting Man in a landscape - North Beach San Franscisco, for £23,750.

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