The auction houses are gearing up for their 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Design sale series in June, featuring a host of paintings, design objects and conceptual installations, as well as digital and media art offerings by the likes of Tracey Emin, teamLab and Julian Opie, alongside the introduction of a cryptocurrency payment method for an iconic Banksy work.
TEXT: Denise Tsui
IMAGES: Courtesy of Phillips
This June, all eyes will be on Phillips and Poly, which have teamed up once again for their 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Design sale series. After achieving their highest ever total of HK$508 million (US$66 million) for both auction houses in the category in Hong Kong last season, they will present a dual-location format in conjunction with Beijing Poly Spring Auctions Week this June. The live auctions will be streamed to audiences worldwide via Phillips’ website and app.
As NFTs and cryptocurrencies continue to be the prevailing hot trend in Asia and around the world, they are looking to stay one step ahead of the pack in Hong Kong, accepting Bitcoin or Ether as an optional payment method for the sale of Banksy’s Laugh Now Panel A (2002). This marks the first time a major auction house in Asia will be accepting cryptocurrency for a physical work of art. A first in history, bidding for Laugh Now Panel A will be held in Hong Kong dollars, with the winning buyer given the option to pay both the hammer price and buyer’s premium using cryptocurrency, paid directly into the company’s wallet with cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase. The move follows Phillips’ successful inaugural NFT sale in April, which saw Mad Dog Jones’ multi-generational NFT, REPLICATOR, achieve more than US$4 million.
Banksy, Laugh Now Panel A
Lot 22, Evening Sale, 8 June
Estimate: HK$22 million – $32 million (US$2,820,000 – 4,100,000)
The artwork portrays what is arguably the most iconic motif of the British-born artist-provocateur—a monkey with slumped shoulders bearing a sandwich board around its neck that reads “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”, in his signature monochrome stencil aesthetic. Spray-painted on dry wall and framed, Laugh Now Panel A is the quintessential image representative of the cultural disruptions and tongue-in-cheek commentaries that have made Banksy a global phenomenon. The forlorn monkey fully encapsulates Banksy’s skill in distilling thought-provoking and complex statementsinto striking visual expressions.
While Banksy’s prolific monkey helms the Evening Sale, five exciting artworks on offer in the 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Design Day Sale on 7 June further cement Phillips’ commitment to digital and media art.
James Turrell, Hologram (IV 01)
Lot 232, Day Sale, 7 June
Estimate: HK$200,000 – 400,000 (US$25,600 – 51,300)
Making light of the subject rather than just the medium, the highly acclaimed American artist James Turrell has notably dedicated his artistic career to the pursuit of what he calls “perceptual art”, the exploration of the materiality of light itself. Turrell’s Hologram (IV 01), executed in 2002, seamlessly blends swathes of blue and green, described on the artist’s website as a “recording of light waves on a thin layer of transparent gelatin emulsion”. Turrell’s holograms seek to “make a hologram of light”, and possess a visible depth from every vantage point. Impossible to grasp through description or photography, Hologram (IV 01), like many of Turrell’s works across other mediums, invites a magical experience that must be felt in real life.
Tracey Emin, I Wanted You
Lot 231, Day Sale, 7 June
Estimate: HK$1,200,000 – 1,800,000 ($154,000 – 231,000)
Neon lights and carefully crafted words are hallmarks of contemporary British artist Tracey Emin, who is best known for her poignant artworks that draw upon autobiographical and self-confessional details. I Wanted You (2009), bearing the words “Oh Christ I Just Wanted You / to Fuck me / And Then / I Became Greedy, I Wanted / You to Love me” in pink neon, is at once unabashedly intimate, confrontational and cuts deep into our human desire for love. As the artist once said, “Neon is emotional for everybody. The neon and argon gases make us feel positive. That’s why you have neon at funfairs, casinos, red-light districts and bars. It’s also to do with the way it electronically pulsates around the glass. It’s a feel-good factor.”
teamLab, Flowers and People – Dark
Lot 233, Day Sale, 7 June
Estimate: HK$1,000,000 – 1,500,000 (US$128,000 – 192,000)
Those who have visited one of teamLab’s permanent spaces in Tokyo, Shanghai or Macau, or experienced their exhibitions around the world, will be familiar with the Japanese interdisciplinary art collective’s element of immersivity. At the forefront of experiential art, teamLab have taken the world—and our Instagram accounts—by storm with their beautiful, visually stunning immersive digital creations. Previously exhibited in Singapore, California, Rome, Seattle and more, Flowers and People – Dark is a multichannel interactive work that renders its imagery in real time through a computer program. Portraying the life cycle of flowers through their growth and decay in an infinite loop, the work responds to the proximity of viewers in relation to its sensors, triggering new phases of growth and continuous chance in the flowers. The mesmerising beauty of this work lies in its ability to create unique interactions each time. No two visual states can be the same; they cannot be replicated or reoccur.
Julian Opie, Robbie Walking 1
Lot 234, Day Sale, 7 June
Estimate: HK$150,000 – 250,000 (US$19,200 – 32,100)
Also utilising the power of computers and computer programming, contemporary British artist Julian Opie blends the aesthetics of Pop Art and Minimalism in his trademark style of portraying animated walking figures and portraits using minimally detailed black lines and areas of flat, solid colours. A continuous digital loop of a figure in motion, Robbie Walking 1 (2012) is representative of Opie’s visual language, inspired by logos, symbols, hieroglyphs, early computer games and more, reduced to the most basic elements of expression. A prominent figure in contemporary art since the 1980s, Opie has exhibited around the world, and his works are widely collected. Most recently in Asia, in 2020, Opie exhibited simultaneously across four locations in Shanghai—Lisson Gallery, Pudong, West Bund and Jing’an Sculpture Park—while a recent commission in Hong Kong featuring 62 figures from all walks of life, rendered in his signature style in metal, is currently on full display in the pedestrian link between Star Street Precinct, Pacific Place Mall and Three Pacific Place.
Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art and Design Spring Sales in Association with Poly Auction
Day Sale: 7 June 2021, 11am HKT
Evening Sale: 8 June 2021, 6pm HKT
Location: JW Marriott, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong