Daring New Moves by Auction House Phillips de Pury & Company
September 16, 2009 § 1 Comment
The Wall Street Journal has reported that in a daring move, auction house Phillips de Pury & Company, is adding another 18 contemporary art sales to its calendar over the next year and a half, while Sotheby’s and Christie’s are scaling back and promoting their fine art sales.
The new sales at Phillips de Pury & Company, are expected to occur once a month between London and New York and will be themed according to titles such as ‘Sex’, ’Film’ and ‘Black/White’. This in keeping with Phillips’s reputation as the younger, hipper auction house, who’s sales are closely followed by the art market.
At a time when revenue at Christie’s are down considerably from last quarter, and Sotheby’s has shrunk their once heavyweight catalogs nearly to the size of CD cases, Phillips, the third-largest auction house for contemporary art, is keeping to their format of A3 sized catalogues and increasing their print runs.
This rather bold move comes courtesy of Bernd Runge, Phillips’s new chief executive and former vice president of Conde Nast International. Mr. Runge was tapped early this year by Phillips’s new owner, Mercury Group, a Russian retailing giant that acquired a majority stake in the privately held auction house last October.
Though critics say that trying out untested works on the battered art market could prove to be a mistake, others are praising the novelty of the plan. Mr. Runge, in his first interview since taking the post, said the monthly auctions will target local audiences in New York and London who haven’t bought art before. He said that he is handling the logistics of the sales, along with the company’s other business affairs, but said that the art will be chosen by the company’s art specialist and its chairman, Simon de Pury.
This is a risky strategy, and critics say that moving more untested artworks into the marketplace now could backfire if collectors hold on to their wallets, potentially rattling confidence in the overall art market.
But, Phillips is going ahead and placing some of its biggest bets yet on the volatile category and what happens on the 26th (‘Now’ auction in September, London – see earlier post) remains to be seen…
NB: Phillips was founded in 1796 by Harry Phillips, formerly the senior clerk of Christie’s founder James Christie. In its early years, the house held sales for Marie Antoinette and Napoleon, and later made its reputation in English furniture and silver. It made its first major foray into contemporary art when Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy bought the company in 1999. In 2002, LVMH sold the company to its managing directors at the time, Simon de Pury and Daniella Luxembourg. Ms. Luxembourg sold her shares five years ago, and Mr. de Pury has run the company since then.