Prime auction house Phillips announced this morning that it will donate all net proceeds from its March 3 evening sale in London to the Ukrainian Red Cross, Artnet News reports. The 20th Century and Contemporary Art auction brought in £5.8 million ($7.7 million). Phillips had expected a much higher total of $32.5 million to $47 million, but four lots were withdrawn from sale just before the start of proceedings, and another was withdrawn while the auction was in progress. Classes. Phillips said the withdrawn works “did not generate interest [they] planned” and have therefore been withdrawn from sale.
“The Ukrainian Red Cross is doing an incredible job of supporting and protecting people in the area, and we hope that the buyer’s bonus and seller’s commission from tonight’s evening sale will help this amazing charity as ‘She’s continuing her lifesaving work,’ Phillips said. CEO Stephen Brooks in a statement earlier today.
The announcement follows a week of scrutiny of the company as Russian forces enter Ukraine, bombarding its structures and citizens. Collectors have faced boycott demands from Phillips over its Russian ownership and the auction house itself has come under increasing criticism for its lack of transparency about who exactly owns it. . Phillips was bought in 2008 by Moscow-based luxury retail conglomerate Mercury Group, which was founded by Leonid Fridlyand and Leonid Strunin. The auction house earlier this week posted a statement on its Instagram condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calling for a cessation of hostilities.
Of interest, Artnet News pointed out that the $7.7 million was a reminder of the low margins auction houses operate on. The publication further explained the finances behind the donation, noting that buyers’ premiums, calculated on a sliding scale, can vary between 14.5 and 26% of a lot’s hammer price, while sellers’ fees vary and are often based on incidental costs such as insurance, transport, catering and catalog photography. A salesperson often waives his fee for an important client or to obtain a “trophy” prize. Phillips reportedly promised at least one seller 50% of the buyer’s premium to secure their lot, meaning the auction house was never going to receive all the fees in the first place.
Correction: The title of this article originally incorrectly stated the amount Phillips donates; it’s $7.7 million.