Evening Sale: Lot 1. Stanley Whitney, Queen of Hearts, 2004, signed 'Whitney' on the stretcher; further signed, titled and dated '2004 "Queen of Hearts" Stanley Whitney' on the reverse, oil on linen, 137.2 x 152.4 c. Estimate HK$800,000 - 1,200,000
Evening Sale: Lot 1. Stanley Whitney, Queen of Hearts, 2004, signed ‘Whitney’ on the stretcher; further signed, titled and dated ‘2004 “Queen of Hearts” Stanley Whitney’ on the reverse, oil on linen, 137.2 x 152.4 c. Estimate HK$800,000 – 1,200,000 https://www.phillips.com/detail/STANLEY-WHITNEY/HK010218/1?fromSearch=Stanley%20Whitney%20&searchPage=1
Day Sale: Lot 57 CHRISTINE AY TJOE, Alter Idem II, 2003, signed and dated ‘Christine ’03’ lower right; further signed, titled, dated and inscribed ‘A. Christine “Ater Idem 2” 40 x 58 CM 2003’ on the reverse gouache and pencil on paper, 57.8 x 40.1 cm. Estimate HK$80,000 – 120,000
In anticipation of the upcoming sales at Phillips auction house, we talk to their specialist team about the highlights to look out for this November, the ever-evolving collecting trends in Asia, and what makes Phillips stand out.
TEXT: Cobo Editorial Force
IMAGES: Courtesy of Philips
Jonathan Crockett, Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia, and Isaure de Viel Castel, Head of department for 20th Century & Contemporary Art, discuss recent developments at Phillips Hong Kong as they begin the autumn art season with an Evening Sale on 25 November, showcasing the very best of international 20th Century & Contemporary Art.As a result of Phillips’ rapid growth in Asia, they are particularly excited about the inaugural Day Sale on 26 November, which will also feature an exceptional offering of Design.The Evening and Day sales will be followed by the Jewels auction on 26 November, and the worldwide market leading Watches auction on 27 November.
What has been your strategy thus far in preparing for the auction in terms of including works that cater to particular collecting trends?
Isaure: When you walk into the preview exhibition, you immediately know you’re viewing a Phillips’ sale. We make conscious efforts to bring together an innovative and wide variety of artists and categories, including names which have never been presented before at auction in the region. Our Evening Sale spans nearly nine decades of art history, from Marc Chagall’s 1929 gouache Le violoniste bleu, to high-in-demand artists such as Banksy and KAWS. Additionally, for the first time we will hold a tightly curated Day Sale, which includes the largest selection of modern design furniture presented thus far at auction in Asia, alongside prominent works by leading artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Are there any examples you would like to highlight in particular?
Isaure: One of the Evening Sale works I’m particularly excited about is Stanley Whitney’s Queen of Hearts, 2004. Following the artist’s first New York City solo museum exhibition at The Studio Museum in Harlem three years ago, his work has become increasingly popular across the globe. Only a few months ago in May, I was with an Asian collector who was bidding for one of his paintings in our New York sale. Whitney’s work certainly resonates with collectors across the region. Observing this, we strategically chose to bring his work to their doorstep here in Hong Kong.A further highlight for me has to be Empty Handed by Marlene Dumas. Following close observation of the growing appeal of her work in Asia, we are bringing to auction for the first time a beautiful portrait of her daughter. Additionally, we are building on our relationship with the street art community in Asia, and have secured two exciting works by Banksy which are a part of a rare series, from a collection in Hong Kong.
Jonathan:As our sales continue to evolve, season after season, it’s particularly exciting to present a strong section of 20th Century western modern art.This demonstrates to collectors here in Asia that our sales are flexible, dynamic, and continuously evolving in line with the ever-growing market and shifts in trends and taste.
What are some highlights from your modern art section?
Isaure:Adding to the international variety of the sale is an incredibly important work by Wilfredo Lam, painted in 1945. Lam returned to Cuba amid the outbreak of the Second World War, allowing the artist to reconnect with his heritage and stimulate his imagination before moving to New York. Lam’s exhibition in late 1945 at Pierre Matisse, the renowned New York gallery, included our work dated to that same year. At the same time, MoMA had begun to acquire Lam’s work, highlighting the importance of that period. For the first time, we have also included works by Marc Chagall and Raoul Dufy.
Do you find there is more of an interest in Asia for western modern art? Or is it still very much geared towards Asian modern art?
Isaure: There has been a longstanding interest in Western modern art in Asia, with important collections across the region championing the work of eminent artists from Picasso to Chagall, especially in East Asia. Korean and Taiwanese collectors have been increasingly active, whilst Japanese and Hong Kong collectors have been acquiring western modern art for many years. In our Seoul auction preview, we displayed paintings by Chagall, Dufy, and Foujita, and collectors were familiar with their work. Of course, we take into consideration the collecting history and how taste differs from country to country within the region. With our western modern art section this year, we’ve curated a new selection for our auction, but the artists are not necessarily new to our collectors.
How are you crafting and building upon this consideration of differences in taste? Is your collection this season exploring work from any new regions within Asia, or targeting a new group of collectors?
Jonathan: This season, for the first time we are bringing a group of South‐East Asian works to the market. They are all amazing works with accessible price points. There is tremendous potential in the South East Asian region, in terms of cultivating a strong collector base. There is a second generation of collectors rising, a phenomenon happening all across Asia from not only Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and North‐East Asia, but also Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore. There are numerous people who have never bought art before and were not on anyone’s radar, but they’re engaging with us here at Phillips. They’re placing bids at our auctions in departments across the board from contemporary art to watches, which is extremely exciting. I’m looking forward to developing our engagement with South‐East Asia as much as everywhere else across the continent.
Isaure: Two years ago in one of our first sales, we set the world auction record (which still stands) for a work by Christine Ay Tjoe. We witnessed first-hand the international appeal of her work to a diverse group of collectors and the potential she had. She is now being represented by White Cube and will have a show in London. This is one example indicative of a rising international interest in works by artists from South East Asia. They have experienced success and popularity in their country of origin, but only recently are they being shown more widely on a global scale. It is also important for us to educate our collectors in other regions of the world and make them aware of emerging scenes, and developments in Asia.
This year, and this season in particular really appears to one of many firsts for Phillips in regards what you’re presenting in Asia and to your clients, and is evident of expansion in multiple areas. You’ve already mentioned a bit about your new sale format, holding an additional day sale. Besides introducing new artists to Asia, what were some other factors in holding this sale?
Jonathan: Following the strong results achieved in our May sale earlier this year, which marked our highest sale total ever in Asia, we chose to expand our offerings for this season. While the Evening Sale is more geared towards established, seasoned collectors, our inaugural Day Sale features works that will resonate with a growing number of young Asian buyers who are starting to build collections. This allows us to be more focused and targeted in curating each sale, so as to meet the varied and sophisticated tastes of buyers across Asia. As cross-category collecting continues to evolve, we are also excited to present a stand-alone section dedicated to important works of design.
Could you elaborate more about the design aspect of the sale? It’s something new for a prominent auction house in Asia to include and it has seen tremendous success for you in New York and London. How do you expect it to fare here in Asia?
Isaure: We have been closely observing the growing appetite for 20th Century and Contemporary Design here in Asia, and have had great success to date, with 100% of works selling in our May sale this year. This season, 36 works of Nordic and Italian design are on offer, with a dedicated section in our sale catalogue. We are leading the way in regards to giving design more exposure here, and are incredibly committed to the development of this category in Asia. It differentiates us from other auction houses, and is well received by our clients.
What is the appeal for design to collectors, from this sale in particular?
Isaure: The works are not only of outstanding quality but they are affordable and functional. You are living with and using a piece of art. High quality vintage design is not easy to find.This sale highlights a range of unique collectible pieces in a single offering.
Lines between fine art and design are becoming increasingly blurred, and crossovers between the two fields are more and more frequent. By bringing this selection of works to auction in Asia, we are able to highlight the manner in which art and design interface. This is but one example of Phillips’ constantly evolving selection of works, and its efforts to introduce new artists to the region. Whether collectors are picking up on a rising global interest in the South East Asian art scene, or on regional interest in works by artists such as Stanley Whitney, at Phillips we have our finger on the pulse of what’s happening now. With an acutely focused strategy, and a selection of truly remarkable works, Phillips is heading for yet another record breaking auction season.