Russian-owned Phillips will donate US$7.7 million auction net proceeds to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society

With the Ukrainian war looming large on a global scale, the auction world is also involved.

Founded in 1796, Phillips is a British auction house and was acquired by the Russian luxury retail giant, Mercury Group, in 2008. As war between Russia and Ukraine intensified, voices of boycotting the Russian-owned company began to surface on the Internet.

On the day of London’s 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Phillips announced on its official website and social media that it would donate all the net proceeds from this auction – including buyer's premium and vendor’s commission to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society to support local humanitarian aid.

Amongst 41 lots offered, 39 were sold – achieving a 95 per cent sale rate and a sale total of £30.1 million pounds (around US$39.8 million dollars). After the auction, the international auction house raised £5.8 million pounds (around US$7.7 million dollars) for the organisation – including around £5.6 million pounds is buyer’s premium, while the remaining £200,000 pounds is vendor’s commission.

The live scene of Phillips London Evening Sale

Before the Sale, Phillips announced that it would donate all proceeds to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society

Whilst the war in Ukraine continues, Europe and the United States have imposed economic sanctions on Russia. The market is concerned that Phillips – a subsidiary of Mercury Group – will be affected. On 28 February, Phillips issued a statement saying that the relevant sanctions will not affect the company's business, and stressed that it will not have business dealings with individuals or institutions on the sanctions list.

Mercury Group is Russia's largest luxury retailer, operating many high-end stores – including the largest fashion department store in Eastern Europe – TsUM in central Moscow. According to Western media sources, the Group’s owners, Leonid Fridlyand and Leonid Strunin, are not on the sanctions list.

On the same day, Phillips’ CEO Stephen Brooks issued an anti-war statement on social media. Collectors, industry insiders and art lovers had mixed voices – with former global CEO of Bonhams auction house, Matthew Girling, most actively calls for boycotts.

Matthew Girling

Stephen Brooks

Girling told The Art Newspaper:

“I am glad [Brooks] has said this but at the end of the day it is just words,” he said.

“More assertive action needs to be taken to try and stop what is going on in Ukraine. Only a boycott of Phillips’s sales will get the attention of the world and the owners of Mercury to hopefully influence Putin to change his current chosen course of action,” he added.

During the London auction week, Phillips announced about two hours before the Sale that it would donate the auction proceeds to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society.

There were 47 lots during this sale – six were withdrawn. Amongst the remaining 41 lots, 39 lots were sold – with a total hammer price of nearly £24.4 million pounds – nearly achieving the total low estimate.

The influence of public opinion regarding the Ukrainian war may not be clear until the major auction in New York in May. Phillips will sell Basquiat’s Untitled (1982) painting – collected by the wealthy Japanese businessman, Yusaku Maezawa, with an estimate of US$70 million dollars.

Lot 19 │ David Hockney Self-Portrait on the Terrace, Oil on canvas (in 2 parts)

Created in 1984
Each: 213.4 x 152.4 cm Overall: 213.4 x 304.8 cm

  • André Emmerich Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in October 1984

Estimate: £4,000,000 – 6,000,000

Hammer Price: £4,000,000

Sold: £4,862,500 (around US$6.4 million)

The three most expensive paintings were won by telephone bids in the London saleroom. The most valuable lot was David Hockney's Self-Portrait on the Terrace painting. After two bids, the hammer was dropped at £4 million pounds. In the end, it fetched £4.8 million pounds (around US$6.4 million dollars), with buyer’s premium.

Soaked in a strong, California sunshine and executed in intensely vibrant passages of bright, bold colour, Self-Portrait on the Terrace is an example of David Hockney’s localised California landscapes – highly unusual in its incorporation of a delicately rendered self-portrait. Painting the areas in and around his Hollywood Hills home after having relocated to this spot on the West Coast in 1978, Hockney took great inspiration from the dramatic, expansive landscapes he discovered on drives through the hills above the city.

Amongst many paintings of the wide-open vistas and ribbons of road carved into the hillsides around Los Angeles that Hockney captured in these years, it was the house itself that quickly emerged as a favourite subject – reproduced across a selection of paintings, drawings, and prints from the period.

Hockney's home in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles

The swimming pool is Hockney's (far left) most popular element in the works of collectors

Lot 12 │ Cecily Brown When Time Ran Out, Oil on linen

Created in 2016
195.6 x 246.4 cm

  • Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £2,000,000 – 3,000,000

Hammer Price: £2,600,000

Sold: £3,168,500 (around US$4.2 million)

The second most expensive painting was Cecily Brown’s When Time Ran Out, which sold for around US$4.2 million dollars.

Rich with art historical allusion and exuberance, When Time Ran Out is a masterful example of the visual and referential complexity of British artist Cecily Brown’s most celebrated work. Created in 2016, the work introduced a new, favourite motif for the painter – the shipwreck – one which allows her to explore her own, strikingly contemporary academism in relation to certain compositional, technical, and thematic elements of Old Master paintings.

In its compositional arrangement and dramatic intensity When Time Ran Out draws directly on Jean-Louis Theodore Gericault’s 19th century masterwork, Le Radeau de la Meduse, highlighting Brown’s insatiable absorption of visual culture, and her unique ability to understand and internalise pictorial structure. Replacing the darker palette of Gericault’s iconic painting with bright hues and fleshy tones, Brown radically updates her art-historical reference point, while making a work entirely of her own.

Gericault’s 19th century masterwork, Le Radeau de la Meduse, is part of the Louvre's Collection

Lot 10 Nicolas Party Houses, Soft pastel on linen

Created in 2015
150 x 120 cm

  • Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich
  • Private Collection, Netherlands
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £1,100,000 – 1,500,000

Hammer Price: £1,200,000

Sold: £1,474,500 (around US$1.9 million)

The third most valuable lot was Nicolas Party’s painting, Houses, which fetched around US$1.9 million dollars.

A rising star from Switzerland, Party paints with soft pastels – bringing freshness to traditional creations such as portraits, landscapes and still lifes with vibrant colours.

His landscape and fruit-themed paintings are popular with Asian collectors. In Hong Kong auctions, his paintings have surpassed the HK$10 million (around US$1.28 million) dollars mark more than once.

At the end of 2021, Landscape was auctioned at Christie's New York – estimated at US$300,000 dollars. In the end, the painting broke Party’s auction record at US$3.2 million dollars.

Other highlight lots:

Four artists names are worth noting – including two female artists who have been successful in auctions in recent seasons – Shara Hughes, Jade Fadojutimi; as well as two African artists – Cinga Samson and Serge Attukwei Clottey. All of their paintings were hammered at multiples of their low estimates.

Lot 11 Shara Hughes Crooked, Acrylic, oil and dye on canvas

Created in 2017
175.3 x 154.9 cm

  • Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £180,000 – 250,000

Hammer Price: £500,000

Sold: £627,500 (around US$834,000)

Lot 32 Jade Fadojutimi A Cropped Perspective of This Whirlwind Effect, Oil and oil stick on canvas

Created in 2020
170.2 x 150 cm

  • Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £150,000 – 200,000

Hammer Price: £420,000

Sold: £627,500 (around US$834,000)

Lot 3 Cinga Samson Ubuhle beenkanyezi VIII, Oil on canvas

Created in 2018
80 x 59.7 cm

  • blank projects, Cape Town
  • Private Collection
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £50,000 – 70,000

Hammer Price: £200,000

Sold: £252,000 (around US$335,000)

Lot 43 Serge Attukwei Clottey Glow girl, Oil and duct tape on cork board

Created in 1986-1987
193 x 124.5 cm

  • Simchowitz, Los Angeles
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £30,000 – 40,000

Hammer Price: £120,000

Sold: £151,200 (around US$201,000)

Auction Details:

Auction House: Phillips London

Sale: 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Sale Date: 3 March 2022

Number of lots: 41

Sold: 39

Unsold: 2

Sale Rate: 95.1%

Sale Total: £30,125,110 (around US$39.8 million)