SEX sells and brings in the bucks at Phillip de Pury’s London auction

Jack Pierson, SEX, 1992, sold for £72,050/$108,183

Now that I’ve got your attention, welcome back to the SEX auction report.

Phillips de Pury & Company’s SEX sale, which took place on March 19 (see Friday’s post), “totalled £1,370,038/$2,057,114 (including premium) selling 75% by value and 69% of the total 217 lots, with numerous records established across categories for both emerging and established artists”. I have had difficulties trying to get hold of a few web-friendly photographic images from the sale so this post will be illustrated with two of the images that I’ve been sent. For those who are interested, the next issue of HotShoe magazine April/May (out in the first week of April) features an interview I did with the lovely Lou Proud, Senior Specialist Photography at Phillips de Pury. Since the interview, I have  more questions to ask Lou, so will be keeping you updated via this blog. For now, here are some sales figures, Top Ten sales and some of my thoughts from the preview.

Phillip de Pury‘s white gallery space in London easily absorbed the large crowd wandering through the various rooms, drinks in hand, where works by Tracey Emin, David Hockney and Allen Jones rubbed up against photographic prints by Nobuyoshi Araki, Richard Avedon, Nan Goldin, Spencer Tunik and Helmut Newton. There were a few surprise pieces; Sue Webster and Tim Noble’s, Serving Suggestion, 2004 an unassuming can of baked beans positioned on a plinth from which a sausage emerged, and Simon English’s drawing, Ed McTain falling for Humpty, 2005 which had my friend in fits. Well, it was a SEX themed auction, so what did I really expect? There was more than a smattering of bondage and fetishism, some very graphic representations of penetration and masturbation, (Sigmar Polke’s drawing, Untitled, 1974, which sold for £121,250, and Japanese photographer Noritoshi Hirakaw’s series) as well as Helmut Newton‘s unmistakeable black and white photographs of women in various states of undress, which stood out for me, particularly in relation to the rather cliched colour photographs in one room often showing beach babes running along the sand or draped across the frame.

Allen Jones, Soft Tread, 1966-1967, sold for £361,250/$542,417

When I returned home that night, I realized that, walking around the gallery space looking at contemporary art works ranging from drawings to sculpture, I had also learnt more about my own attitude to graphic sexual representations and erotic imagery. Namely that, whenever I look at photographs of genitalia or someone performing a sexual act, I experience a distancing between myself and the work which I don’t experience to the same degree when viewing drawings or sculptures, neon signs or lithographs depicting the same subject matter. To put it another way, for me, photographic representations of sex (even in an art context such as at the preview exhibition) often recall images from men’s magazines and lads’ magazines (Willy Camden’s SEX, 2006 and Gavin Bond‘s, Adriana with Boa from Backstage: Volume II, 2008) to such a degree that I find there is less space for me to respond to the work in my own way, as it’s so embedded as part of my visual culture on a daily basis. I am exposed to these kinds of images far more often, so that when viewing such images, I often cannot help but reference them back to top-shelf imagery without thinking – it’s an automatic and immediate association.

With less realistic representations, however, I find that here is more space between the work and me so that as a viewer, I can dive in, negotiate, and experience the work in a different way. So, although there were some photographs that I would happily own, such as Pierre Moliniers Autoportraits, some of the anonymous photographs from the 1920s and 1950s, Richard Avedon‘s rather beautiful double portrait, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, Poets, New York City, December 30, 1963, David Seymour‘s, Prostitute near the Krupp works, West Germany, Essen, 1947, if I had been able to buy anything, it would have been Brett Whitely‘s, Lipstick, 1981, (Lithograph and paper collage on paper with an estimate of £3,000-4,000) which still resonates a week later. Where sex and art is concerned it really is a matter of taste.

On this note, here are the Top Ten lots across the auction as well as a selection of photographic lots that I followed online with the final selling price. NOTE: Lots which did not sell or have been withdrawn do not appear in the Final Sales PDF. “The following prices in British Pounds Sterling include the buyer’s premium and are rounded to the nearest pound. The buyer’s premium is 25% of the hammer price up to and including £25,000, 20% in excess of £25,000 up to and including £500,000 and 12% thereafter. Phillips de Pury & Company is not responsible for errors or omissions”.

Lot 45: Allen Jones, Soft Tread, 1966-1967, £361,250/$542,417

Lot 66: Sigmar Polke, Untitled, 1974, £121,250/$182,057

Lot 137: Jack Pierson, SEX, 1992, £72,050/$108,183

Lot 118: Jenny Saville & Glen Luchford, Closed Contact #10, 1995-96, £67,250/$100,975

Lot 67 Martin Eder, La Paix du Cul (The Ass Peace), 2006, £40,850/$61,336

Lot 72: Philippe Pasqua, Caphi, 2004, £32,450/$48,723

Lot 37: Helmut Newton, Beverly Hills Hotel, 1988, £30,000/$45,045

Lot 155: Vassily Tsagolov, From the Series of Office Affairs 2, 2008-2009, £25,000/$37,537

Lot 62: Nobuyoshi Araki, Yakusa, 1994, £20,000/$30,030

Lot 139: Chris Bracey, Pole Dancers, 2005, £20,000/$30,030

LOT 44: DAIDO MORIYAMIHow to Create a Beautiful Picture 6£13,000 (£16,250)

Lot 51: NORITOSHI HIRAKAWA, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, – £4,500 (£5,625)

Lot 57: NOBUYOSHI ARAKI, Untitled Polaroid – £1300 (£1,625)

Lot 58: NOBUYOSHI ARAKI, 67 Shooting Back, 2007 – £8,500 (£10, 625)

Lot 80: SARAH LUCAS, Sex Baby, 2000 – £5,200 (£6,500)

Lot  92: RYAN MCGINLEYTim and Dakota, 2002 – £7,000 (£8, 750)

Lot 116: THOMAS RUFF, Nudes, 200 – £1,900 (£2, 375)

Lot 117: ANTOINE D AGATA, Turkey, Istanbul from Insomnia, 2 – £700 (£875)


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