Following the success of Sotheby’s marathon session of live-streamed auctions on Monday, and ahead of Christie’s relay-style multi-city auction on 10 July, Phillips staged a sale last night which offered another valuable test of the art market. And as with Sotheby’s sales earlier in the week, the results of will give many cause for some confidence, and relief.

In contrast to Monday’s $363.2 million marathon event at Sotheby’s, which lasted almost 5 hours, Phillips offered just 25 works with every one selling for a decent total of $41.1 million. The look and experience of the sale lacked some of the gloss and polish at Sotheby’s, but the length of the sale seemed far more suitable to the novel ’streaming’ format and highlighted the challenges that lie ahead for all the houses in keeping it fresh and spontaneous.
The top price at Phillips was Joan Mitchell’s ‘Noël’, 1962, which sold within estimate for $11.1 million. Interestingly, works by female artists have made over $100 million at this week’s evening auctions, with every work selling. Also at Phillips Helen Frankenthaler’s ‘Head of the Meadow’, 1967, realised $3 million against an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000, echoing the success of the artist’s ‘Royal Fireworks’ which made a record $7.9 million at Sotheby’s on Monday (estimate of $2 to $3 million).
Another parallel was for the highly-desirable works of Matthew Wong, the Canadian artist who tragically died last year. At an online auction in May, Sotheby’s established a new record for the artist when a still life watercolour sold for $62,500. On Monday ‘The Realm of Appearances’ was offered with an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000 and sold for $1.8 million, over 25 times its low estimate, while last night Phillips offered ‘Mood Room’ with the same estimate; it made $848,000. This reflects the overall tend of the auction at Phillips where higher-value works by established artists sold solidly, without great excitement, while works by younger ‘in demand’ artists with low estimates attracted spirited bidding familiar with the days of old (albeit when many of them might have been found in a day sale). Banksy, KAWS and George Condo sold near low estimates, while short-in-supply works by Titus Kaphar  Lucas Arruda, Christina Quarles, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe and Amoako Boafo all made many times their estimates.
The evening auctions tend to be the most carefully managed of all and this week’s successes have been the result of some deft work both on the selection and pricing of works, and the financial deals behind them. This year’s restricted auction calendar has also created some pent-up demand in certain areas of the market and the evening sales have done well to meet it. Perhaps more telling now that the auction calendar is gearing up again are the results in the Day sales, and in the regional salerooms; from Islamic art in London and Prints in New York to Design in Paris And while the results elsewhere aren’t painting the quite the same picture of ‘old times’ success, they are so far more likely to give cause for confidence than concern.
The next major test of the top end of the market will be on 10 July when Christie’s presents ONE – ‘a global 20th-century art auction spanning four cities in one relay-style format.’