Phillips auction house plans massive expansion in Asia


“The world is looking east,” says Stephen Brooks, CEO of Phillips. “We strongly believe in Asia for the long term and we want to be part of it and are is already part of that. The auction house, which focuses on 20th and 21st century art and design, watches and jewelry, has just signed an agreement to create a huge auction room and offices in the cultural district tower from West Kowloon to Hong Kong, right across from the Herzog & de Meuron -designed M + museum, which opened in November.

Phillips will move into its new premises in late 2022. The site spans 48,000 square feet, including a triple-height showroom overlooking Victoria Harbor. The company will dramatically increase the number of sales it holds in the territory, Brooks says, adding categories other than art.

Purchases by Asian collectors and institutions in Phillips sales fell from $ 150 million last year – a low base because of Covid – to $ 270 million this year, as Asian buyers underbid ( offering the second highest bid) 60% of its lots. “So far, in 2021, customers based in Asia are over $ 1 billion if you include buying, selling and underbidding,” says Brooks, noting that half of the top 10 lots put at auction by Phillips this year went to Asian buyers. These include “Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1939), which sold for $ 7.7 million in New York in November, for the Long Museum in Shanghai.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s ‘Crab’s Claw Ginger Hawaii’ (1939) sold for $ 7.7 million at Phillips in November

There have been particularly strong auctions from young collectors for young artists, an area in which Phillips specializes. In November, the company’s joint sale with Chinese state-owned Poly Auction grossed HK $ 670 million (US $ 86 million). Works by trendy names such as Cinga Samson, Salman Toor and Julie Curtiss have exceeded estimates, sometimes up to 10 times. Brooks says the partnership with Poly is very attractive “because we can connect with mainland Chinese buyers, and that’s good for western sellers. We expect this to continue.

Other auction houses are strengthening their Asian presence. Christie’s will move its Asia-Pacific headquarters to the tower designed by Zaha Hadid Architects The Henderson in Hong Kong Central in 2024. It will occupy 50,000 square feet with a sales room and offices. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s sent two of its top specialists, Alex Branczik and Max Moore, to its Hong Kong headquarters, with Branczik becoming president of modern and contemporary art in Asia.

The WKCDA tower © Winnie Yeung, Visual Voices

When asked why Phillips chose West Kowloon over Hong Kong Island itself, Brooks noted its good connections – direct access to Hong Kong Airport and a high-speed rail link that runs it. takes 15 minutes to mainland China. In addition to the M +, the district will be home to the controversial Palace Museum, which will showcase traditional art from the Forbidden City and is expected to open in the middle of next year. The project has been criticized for its lack of local consultation and is seen by many as an effort by Beijing to increase its influence in Hong Kong.

Asked about Hong Kong’s future as an art hub, despite mainland China’s growing hold on the territory, Brooks said, “Hong Kong is important, and in fact will become more important over time. We have seen no sign that the economic powerhouse that is Hong Kong is going the other way. We believe this is the best place to develop our business.


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