By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Phillips’s Hong Kong 20th Century and Contemporary Evening Sale, October 2023

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Staged on Friday October 6 on the heels of Sotheby’s lackluster Hong Kong evening art sales, art market watchers had low expectations for Phillips’s Hong Kong 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. And, as expected against the backdrop of China’s economic downturn and global market uncertainties, the results were not off the charts.

The evening’s hammer total did not meet the fees-free presale low expectation excluding withdrawals; reserves appeared to be lowered as some works sold below their presale estimates, such as works by market darlings Jadé Fadojutimi, Loie Hollowell, and Nicolas Party.

That said, given the challenging market conditions, Phillips’s results were not too bad. Lower than seasons past, but then again the  number of lots on offer on Friday—27 before withdrawals—was significantly lower than that in the past two autumn sales (33 in 2022 and 52 in 2021). “This evening’s result demonstrates our nimble approach in adapting to the current trends of the macro environment,” Jonathan Crockett, Phillips Asia chairman, said in a statement after the sale.

The house also managed to identify a handful of records. The second top seller of the evening, Nicolas Party’s painting (2012-2013), became the most expensive oil on canvas work by the artist sold at auction (Party’s top 10 works are all soft pastel on linen, according to the Artnet Price Database). Miriam Cahn’s 2017 painting achieved HK$2.3 million ($292,608) with fees, a new record for the artist in Asia. The house added that works by artists born after 1970 were 100 percent sold, and noted that the sale of (2020) achieved a new artist record for Ebecho Muslimova.

All told, compared to the past two autumn’s results, Friday’s total certainly points to a softer market. Results were down by 28 percent from last autumn’s HK$262 million ($33.6 million), and 58 percent down from 2021 autumn’s HK$454.6 million ($58 million), the highest autumn total Phillips has achieved in Hong Kong since 2019. Whether the trend continues to bear out as the art world turns their heads to London this week and Paris next week remains to be seen.

Yoshitomo Nara, No Means No

Yoshitomo Nara, No Means No. Courtesy Phillips.

Below, the story by the numbers:

Total Sales After Fees: HK$189.7 million ($24.2 million)

Lots Sold: 22

Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 27

Lots Withdrawn: 4

Lots Bought In: 1

Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 82 percent

Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 96 percent

Hammer Total: HK$153 million ($19.6 million)

Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: HK$194.5 million ($24.9 million)

Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: HK$164.3 million ($21 million)

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: –HK$41.5 million ($5.3 million)

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: –HK$11.3 million ($1.4 million)

Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: HK$30 million ($3.9 million) (16 percent of total presale low estimate)

Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: HK$65.2 million ($8.3 million) (34 percent of total presale low estimate)

Lots with House Guarantees: 0

Lots with Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: 5

Top seller: Fresh to the market, Yoshitomo Nara’s 2006 canvas work was the most valuable work at the sale. Fortunately, it did not disappoint. The work hammered at HK$54 million ($6.9 million), slightly above its presale low estimate at HK$52 million ($6.7 million). It achieved a sale price at HK$65.5 million ($8.4 million), making it the highest value work by the artist sold across all auction houses during Hong Kong’s October auction week. It is the 16th priciest Nara work sold at auction, according to the Artnet Price Database.

Lasting memory: The memorable numbers of Phillips and Sotheby’s Hong Kong results show a turning tide in the market, and may give the jitters to consignors to the upcoming Christie’s Hong Kong autumn sales series, which will take place from November 24 to December 2.

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