Phillips Photographs May Auction: The Results
With the other auction houses now focused on Paris and New York, Phillips’ popular biannual auction stands as the only public barometer of London’s photography market. Held each Spring and again in November, their auctions present a useful indicator of the current climate, revealing which artists, ideas, eras or genres are performing well – in the European market at least.
With the art market full of jitters, as interest rates continue to rise and buyers consider sitting on their hands, Phillips presented an eclectic mix with a reasonably high number of female nudes and an emphasis on crowd-pleasing celebrity works. From a private London collection, the ‘spotlight’ section in particular presented pop culture through the decades and included iconic works by bankable names. The ‘ultimate’ section was a little more progressive and intriguing, featuring stand-out works by Zanele Muholi, Tania Franco Klein and Maria Svarbova, as well as several works by Korean artists, including Byung-Hun Min, JeeYoung Lee, Jung Lee and Rala Choi.
The results were reasonably good, considering the market is widely understood to be in a ‘contemplative’ phase. 78% of the lots sold and prices were solid, if not noteworthy. The photographs that fetched the highest prices were iconic works by Richard Avedon and Terry O’Neill – whose market over the past decade has gone from strength to strength. ‘Dovima with Elephants’ (1955) secured the highest price at £139,700, while O’Neill’s celebrated portrait of Brigitte Bardot on the set of ‘The Legend of Frenchie King’ returned six-times its expected value, at £48,260. In fact, all six of Terry O’Neill’s lots exceeded their estimated prices.
Brian Duffy’s image of David Bowie as Aladdin Zane (1973) was another exciting result, coming in at £27,940, more than three-times its estimated price.