Famed Auction House Phillips Goes Virtual for One Night With Groundbreaking Sale

Courtesy Phillips

The digital experience allows for deep viewer engagement.

Given this unprecedented time in our history, many businesses are stepping away from their traditions. That's especially true in the art world. Evening sales have long been major in-person events, but that's not an option right now for many. So, to adapt, Phillips just announced its forthcoming 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City would be their first live-streamed only evening sale. 

Related: Phillips’ Live Auctions Resume in London With Rare Works of Design

The famed auction house leaned into the current restrictions and created a full digital experience to bring people even closer to the art while still at a distance. The sale is going to be a high-production international studio effort. Henry Highly, Phillips lead auctioneer, will be manning the gavel from London in a custom-built auction studio with the New York team on a live video feed from NYC. Additional international specialists will be on zoom and phone bidding remotely. Phillips has also rolled out greatly enhanced pages for the artworks, archival images, in-depth catalog essays, and more. 


Courtesy Phillips

"We've produced beautiful and informative content surrounding the works," Robert Manley, Phillips Deputy Chairman and Worldwide Co-Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, told Departures. "For example, the digital page for the Joan Mitchell produced an inspiring video of the artist herself and conducted an in-depth interview with Jill Wienberg Adams, a longtime gallerist and Mitchell scholar. We have made our platform incredibly dynamic and user friendly with layers of detail for those who want it."


Courtesy Phillips

That Joan Mitchell painting is one of the two $10 million works for sale. The other is a monumental painting on paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat, created the year before his untimely death.

Related: Rare Rembrandt Self-Portrait Could Fetch $20 Million at Auction

"The major Joan Mitchell painting from a historically important period from the artist when she had moved to Paris and was immersed in the creative milieu there and when she developed a new style of painting: slashing brushstrokes and Jackson Pollock-like drips," said Manley. "The [Basquiat] work depicts a figure of a black man after experiencing some kind of brutality, Basquiat frequently grappled with his identity as a black man in a predominantly white art world, and this work demonstrates an urgency that resonates today."

Overall, the sale covers the entire 20th and 21st Century with works by Maxfield Parrish, Matthew Wong, Gerhard Richter, and a rare early Banksy. The sale also features a great group of works by highly sought after contemporary artists like Amoako Boaffo, Christina Quarles, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, and Robert Nava.


Courtesy Phillips

"We've adapted to a new era with the global pandemic. We've developed a sophisticated global live stream system that will truly bring the excitement and energy of a live sale to viewers at home," said Manley. "We are still committed to live sales, of course, and are looking forward to when we can host those again. But for now, everyone is adapting, and we're proud to have pulled together a well-produced experience for our collectors."

The live stream will take place worldwide on July 2, 2020, at 5 pm EDT.