Press Release  May 1, 2017

Phillips Announces Highlights From the Evening and Day Sales of 20Th Century & Contemporary Art

Phillips is pleased to announce highlights from the Evening and Day Sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art. The Day Sale will take place on Wednesday, 17 May, followed by the Evening Sale on Thursday, 18 May. Comprised of 40 lots, the Evening Sale is expected to realize in excess of $107 million and will offer works by Peter Doig, Gerhard Richter, Roy Lichtenstein, and Willem de Kooning. The Day Sale, offering 185 lots, is estimated to achieve over $15 million, the highest pre-sale estimate for a Phillips Day Sale to date. The sale will include important artworks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Donald Judd, and Louise Bourgeois, among others. 

Jean-Paul Engelen, Worldwide Co-Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, said, “Our May sales of 20th Century & Contemporary Art mark one of the most significant and comprehensive offerings that Phillips has ever assembled. Our new team is in place and collectors have responded enthusiastically, entrusting us with fresh-to-the-market works.” Robert Manley, Worldwide Co-Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, added, “We are delighted to offer artworks with exceptional provenance, from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation to the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat alongside those from several other prominent private collections. We have seen a great deal of momentum at Phillips in these last few months and we are confident that this season will demonstrate both the strength of the market and Phillips’ place within it.”

The Evening Sale—18 May 2017, 5:00 pm

Leading the Evening Sale is Peter Doig’s Rosedale, which dates from a pivotal moment the artist’s career. Painted in 1991, the work was created for his celebrated solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, after he had won the prestigious Whitechapel Artist Prize that year. The large-scale painting stands nearly seven feet tall by eight feet wide, depicting a Toronto home through a tapestry of snow and tree branches. Expected to realize in excess of $25 million, the work has never been publicly offered and is poised to set a new auction record for a living British artist. Please click here for the dedicated press release. 

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (811-1) is a magnificent example of an artist at the height of his career. This monumental painting is from Richter’s unparalleled opus of abstraction - one that reached its pinnacle during the period the present work was created. Executed in 1994 – following Richter’s breakthrough exhibition at the Tate Gallery and major touring retrospective two years prior – Abstraktes Bild (811-1) was notably exhibited the following year in Gerhard Richter: Painting in the Nineties at Anthony d'Offay Gallery, an acclaimed show debuting works that now reside in major museum collections across the globe. This work was created during the year that gave rise to some of Richter’s most powerful, monumental abstract pictures, standing as a definitive example of the artist’s hallmark squeegee technique, which found its purest articulation between 1989 and 1994. 

Agnes Martin’s Untitled #1 from 1985 is a stunning example of her aesthetic of this time. Abandoning her earlier gridded canvases in favor of uninterrupted vertical and horizontal bands, Martin began executing works embodying an ethereal, evanescent beauty in varying shades of gray. Executed in her standard format (for this time period) of a 72 by 72 inch square – a size which Martin specifically chose for its particularly human scale – the present lot wonderfully exemplifies her process of mixing acrylic with gesso, lending her work a matte tonality and adds a particular luminescence to the painting. Untitled #1 is a testament to Martin’s reputation as a master of paring down the forms within their art to their most reductive elements in order to encourage a perception of perfection and to emphasize a sense of transcendent reality.

Damien Hirst’s The Void is the largest of his Pill Cabinets ever to come to auction and one of the first he ever created. This particular example is the first from the series to be shown by Hirst in a commercial exhibition – his seminal and celebrated Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings show at the Gagosian Gallery in New York – and it is the first Pill Cabinet he showed in the United States. Other examples can be found in such esteemed Foundations as the Broad Museum or the Pinault Foundation, and in museums such as the Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen – Museum Brandhorst in Munich and the Leeum Museum in Seoul. The rarity and significance of the Pill Cabinets series; the importance of this example being just the second version Hirst ever made; and the monumental scale and dazzling visual complexity of this example, all combine to elevate the prominence of The Void making it one of, if not the most important work of art by Damien Hirst to come to auction.

Phillips is proud to include three works from the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat in the auctions; Untitled (Venus 2000 B.C.) and Untitled will be included in the Evening Sale and an additional untitled work will highlight the Day Sale. By the time Jean-Michel Basquiat painted Untitled (Venus 2000 B.C.) in 1982 he had established himself as the impresario of the international art world within an exhilarating period of just a few years. 1982 was momentous for Basquiat, and this work resonates with all the creative energies and artistic momentum that he manifested around the world, having recently travelled to Modena, Italy, and to Los Angeles. The painted composition of Untitled (Venus 2000 B.C.) is comprised of a myriad of Basquiat’s most potent symbols. Notably, the eponymous Venus figure of the title dominates the canvas. Accompanying her metaphoric beauty is Basquiat’s creative genius as manifested in the expressionistic scrawls and encrypted imagery that populates the far corners of this distorted stretcher. Paintings like the stunning Untitled (Venus 2000 B.C.) are infinitely more than the sum of their parts – they manifest Basquiat’s particular visual lexicon. Those symbols functioned as both visual cues and intellectual stimulants. By the time Basquiat completed Untitled two years later, in 1984, he already had five major solo shows across America, Europe, and Japan under his helm and was the youngest artist - at 23 years of age - ever to be included in the Whitney Biennial. The present work stands out within the scope of Basquiat’s oeuvre for its focus on a singular, frontally-portrayed figure and its high degree of chromatic nuance and abstraction. In stark contrast to the frenetic canvases of Basquiat’s earlier years, Untitled puts forward a more serene composition. This artwork is testament to the centrality that the human figure – particularly in the guise of a black man – takes in Basquiat’s inimitable oeuvre.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Woman: Sunlight, Moonlight is being offered with an estimate in excess of $10 million, poised to set an all-time record for a sculpture by the artist. The sculpture, completed in 1996 a year before the artist’s unexpected death, was created during the height of Lichtenstein’s career. Taking the art historical use of the bust through the lens of Lichtenstein’s signature Pop Art idiom, Woman: Sunlight, Moonlight is widely considered among the artist’s greatest works. The work is being sold by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation to benefit its study center projects. Please click here for the dedicated press release. 

Willem de Kooning’s Untitled II is also among the highlights in the May Evening Sale. A magnificent tour-de force of his painterly virtuosity, Untitled II is one of less than ten works created in 1980, an important turning point in de Kooning’s career. At 77 by 88 inches, it is an example of the largest of the three canvas sizes de Kooning used, reserved for his most ambitious projects. Untitled II is acts as an important transition from the artist’s heavily worked “pastoral” canvases of the mid-1970s to the more minimal ribbon-like brushstrokes that would become the signature of his output in the 1980s. Please click here for the dedicated press release. 

The Day Sale—17 May 2017, 11:00 am

Our Day Sale on 17 May brings together significant pieces from some of the most important names in the art historical canon, from a rare, early painting by the late Pop master James Rosenquist to an iconic Menziken box by Judd Tully, executed quite late in the artist’s career. Leading the auction are several works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, one that has been consigned from the artist’s estate and three works on paper that hail from the collection of Scott D.F. Spiegel. Executed in 1983 at the pinnacle of the artist’s career, the untitled work from the artist’s estate combines many of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s most noteworthy techniques and imagery. The graffiti-like imagery present in Untitled not only pulls from Basquiat’s own beginnings as a street artist, but also from the influences of some of his most well-known contemporaries, such as Keith Haring. In addition to demonstrating other contemporary masters’ influences on the artist, the present lot furthers Basquiat’s unique personal style, making it a stellar example of his wholly distinct place in the trajectory of art history. Three Basquiat works from the renowned collection of Scott D.F. Spiegel will also be offered in the Day Sale, each of which depicts his signature, individualized head studies. The works were purchased by Mr. Spiegel directly from the artist in 1982, the year in which they were executed, and have remained in his collection since. 

An untitled Menziken box by Donald Judd will also be offered in the Day Sale. Executed in 1991, only three years before the artist’s passing, Untitled exemplifies Donald Judd’s commitment to material, space, and color as the three fundamental elements of art. A key figure of the Minimalist movement beginning in the 1960s, Judd continually rejected traditional notions of art history, as demonstrated by the present lot. From 1988 to 1994, Judd worked with Alu Menziken, an aluminum manufacturing company based in Switzerland, in the construction of these industrial boxes. In the present work, Judd utilizes the industrial materials of clear anodized aluminum and colored acrylic sheets to create a singular form that is without allusion to the pictorial world. As exemplified in this work, Judd’s preference for modest, simple forms allowed him to truly explore the artistic possibilities of color, light, and space for which he is renowned.

Also highlighting the Day Sale is a major sculpture by British artist Tony Cragg, R.A., executed in 2012, entitled Elliptical Column. Since the 1970s, Cragg has redefined the notions surrounding the discipline of sculpture by challenging the medium's primary purpose in the art historical trajectory. From his beginnings in working with found objects made of wood, stone and plastic, Cragg has continually acknowledged the apparent uselessness of his sculptures. As exemplified in the present lot, however, it is a sculpture’s purpose to create a series of dialogues, those between sculptor and material, sculpture and its surroundings, and viewer and sculpture. A tower of stainless steel, Elliptical Column, is a masterpiece that possesses the ability to be not useful, but rather thought-provoking and reflective.

Auction: Day Sale: 17 May at 11am
Evening Sale: 18 May at 5pm

Auction viewing: Day Sale: 5-17 May
Evening Sale: 5-18 May

Monday to Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Location: 450 Park Avenue, New York

About Phillips 

Phillips is a leading global platform for buying and selling 20th and 21st century art and design. With dedicated expertise in the areas of Art, Design, Photographs, Editions, Watches, and Jewelry, Phillips offers professional services and advice on all aspects of collecting. Auctions and exhibitions are held at salerooms in New York, London, Geneva, and Hong Kong, while clients are further served through representative offices based throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. Phillips also offers an online auction platform accessible anywhere in the world. 

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium; prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium. 

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