Friday, March 13, 2009

Saturday Sale of the Century

If I praise the realism of the Saturday@Phillips auction, I am not (or not just) talking about the art for sale. What I mean is that by holding a sale where most items have estimates under £3,000, Phillips de Pury is putting the first pieces of a collection within the realistic grasp of young professionals.

The show is varied in tone and quality and in the fame of the artist. There is a terrific Warhol Polaroid of Jerry Hall, staring at you over her bare shoulder, her wide blue eyes fixing you like a seductive Madonna. This seems exactly the sort of iconography Warhol would take aim at.

There is an orgasmic (literally) Nan Goldin and some minor Banksies, plus quite a few Banksy-derivatives; perhaps the triteness of his imitators makes Banksy a gimmick rather than an influential artist. FAILE are a collective who produce street art crossed with pop art: Liechtensteins for the overly-cynical.

Some of the artists I haven't heard of (which is not really saying much) are (by definition) wonderful discoveries. Andres Serrano's Piss Discus is a photo of an ancient Greek discoboulos (discus-thrower) in his traditional torqued form who looks like he has been concealed behind a translucent orange-fading-to-yellow screen (possibly the titular urine). It reminds me visually of a Rothko, but one much more humane, much less angsty.

There is plenty for all types of collector - figurines not of the Lladro kind (think Astronaut Jesus), classic watches (sorry, timepieces) and furniture by Ron Arad and Robert Indiana, as well as beautiful modernist designs. It sure beats IKEA.

The worst thing about the show? I'm considering buying things I can ill-afford. But that, I think, counts as a success for Phillips.

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