Phillips has described its biannual “Under the Influence” auction as a “barometer for the upcoming season.” So, to go with the metaphor, yesterday's fall edition of the sale—the first under the new leadership of former New Museum curator Benjamin Godsill—suggests that the contemporary-art market should be operating at reasonably high pressures this fall.
The afternoon event brought in a total of $4.7 million and broke artists' records for Oscar Murillo, Guyton/Walker, Alex Prager, and Mark Flood. Though there were a number of passes—the sell-through rate came in at 61 percent—these and a few other high-ticket sales, including the evening's top lot, a gray three-part Christopher Wool silkscreen that sold for $437,000, brought in the decent overall total.
Painterly works with a distinctly contemporary edge seemed to attract the most attention at the sale. Bidders propelled the price of one of Mark Flood's degraded-lace abstractions past its $7,000 estimate to achieve a record $37,500. And aVik Muniz print based on an Edward Hopper painting doubled its high estimate to sell for $60,000, while the artist's other totals surpassed expectations across the board: an older black-and-white photo of a hobo on the side of the road soared past its modest $3,000-$4,000 estimate to sell for $35,000, and two works from his "Pictures of Junk" series based on Old Master paintings also outdid their estimates to sell in the mid-five-figures.
Meanwhile, a video and set of color-saturated, Old Hollywood-style film stills by Alex Prager was estimated at around $40,000, but brought in $62,500, setting a new record for the artist. Keith Haring, whose less recognizable works seem to be doing well at auction lately, had a small bidding war break out over a painted plaster penis, which scaled past its $12,000 estimate to take in $112,500.
All in all, the event offered plenty of reasons to whet collectors' appetites for the main-stage contemporary sales coming to Phillips, Christie's, and Sotheby's this November.