Phillips, the world’s third-largest auction house, announced that it will donate the entire $7.7 million commission from Thursday’s high-profile art sale to the Ukrainian Red Cross.
The announcement came after reports in The Post and elsewhere that some collectors were calling for a boycott of the auction house, which is owned by Mercury, Moscow’s leading luxury company.
“From tonight’s 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Phillips will donate 100 percent of its buyer’s [sic] premium and vendor’s [sic] commission to benefit the Ukrainian Red Cross Society,” the company announced on Instagram Thursday morning.
The evening auction of 20th century and contemporary art was supposed to be a highlight for Phillips, which made a record $1.2 billion in global sales of luxury goods last year — a 32% increase from the previous year. Last year, global auction sales for 2021 increased by 35% to $993.3 million.
However, one collector told The Post that Thursday night’s auction in London, which netted $40 million, was “decidedly tepid.”
In an unusual move, “four or five” lots were withdrawn prior to the sale, according to Artnet.
They included one of the auction’s highlight items.
“They may have gotten cold feet from the press, or there may have been a lack of interest,” the collector speculated.
“From the sellers’ point of view, the response was a little disappointing. “It was less than they had hoped for,” said the collector.
When reached by The Post, David Norman, Phillips’ chairman of the Americas, declined to comment.
On Instagram, some art fans praised Phillips’ pro-Ukraine statement from earlier in the week, while others criticised it as cynical. “They’re trying to spin it as something wonderful,” said one collector.
While some art collectors believe that the auction house should not be “punished” for Putin’s invasion, others believe that all Russians must be held accountable for the country’s actions. “Was Hitler the only guilty person in Nazi Germany?” one person wondered.
In any case, the collector added, “It’s naive to think that everything can be laid at Putin’s feet, as if athletes can continue to perform and act as if nothing happened, and as if oligarchs can continue to float around on their yachts.” It’s a farce. Russia, like Nazi Germany, is a gangster state. Hitler desired a reich of super-Aryans, and Putin desires to resurrect a mythical Rus.”
In total, 39 of the 41 available lots were sold. There were bidding wars for John Chamberlain, David Hockney, Francis Bacon, and Claude Monet, among others. Hockney’s 1984 diptych Self-Portrait on the Terrace fetched the highest price of $6.5 million. Issy Wood’s Chalet from 2019 also set a new auction record for the artist, fetching $588,000; it was expected to fetch $200,000.
Phillips declined to elaborate on how it screens its sellers and buyers to ensure that all sanctions are followed.
“Phillips conducts careful due diligence before conducting business with any client, regardless of nationality,” a spokesperson told The Post in a statement. Phillips will not do business with any sanctioned individuals or institutions.”
Andy Hall, a retired hedge fund manager and art collector, said of Phillips’ donation on Instagram, “Well, this is a good start.” Phillips, a well-run, feisty, and energetic rival to the other two major auction houses, should now follow Chelsea FC’s lead and cut all ties with Russia’s kleptocracy.”