New York’s auction season is sprawling into new territories. In an unprecedented move, Phillips auction house will hold its November evening sale in New York on a Sunday. It is just one of seven evening sales being held in a ten-day period, making this one of the most jam-packed auction seasons ever.
The calendar used to be straightforward: there were generally five auctions spread across two weeks. Christie’s and Sotheby’s would each hold an Impressionist and Modern evening sale in the first week of November. This would be followed by a week of contemporary art evening auctions at Christies, Sotheby’s and Phillips. But, as competition for buyers’ time and wallets has increased (and profit margins narrowed as a result), all the auctions houses are trying out new ways to win attention and boost revenues.
Christie’s was the first to tinker with the formula. It began staging additional auctions in May 2014 with the $136.6m contemporary art sale, “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday”, and followed that event last November with a cross-category themed sale, “Looking Forward to the Past”, which raised $705.9m. Christie’s also moved its Impressionist and Modern auction into the contemporary week—on the same evening as Phillips’, making it difficult for buyers to attend both.
Phillips neatly avoids the clash with its new Sunday evening slot. “This will ensure the sale can take place at a dedicated time within a demanding auction schedule,” says a spokeswoman.
The date shift is one of several changes implemented by Phillips chief executive Edward Dolman, the former head of Christie’s, since he joined the company last year. Josh Baer, author of the industry newsletter the BaerFaxt, says: “I think Phillips’ leadership knows what it’s doing, and this timing is probably best for their clients.”
The sale on 8 November will also mark the debut of a new department Dolman has formed, merging 20th-century and contemporary art. A highlight will be Giorgio de Chirico’s Gladiateurs Au Repos (1928-29) from the collection of the Italian art dealer Gian Enzo Sperone, which Phillips is offering with an estimate of $4m to $6m.
Meanwhile, both Sotheby’s and Christie’s will stage standalone events in addition to their usual fare. Sotheby’s is planning to auction works from the collection of its former owner Alfred Taubman on 4 November, including three paintings estimated to sell for between $25m and $35m each: Picasso’s Femme Assise Sur une Chaise (1938); Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XXI (1976); and Modigliani’s Portrait de Paulette Jourdain (around 1919).
Modigliani will also headline Christie’s special event, The Artist’s Muse, a cross-category sale of 20th-century art, scheduled to take place on 9 November. The Italian artist’s reclining nude, Nu Couché (1917), is estimated at more than $100m.