Interview MATT langton (phillips),
"As the online space evolves, we will continue to explore completely new methods and models with which to serve art collectors around the world."
Phillips is an auction house with much history, having been founded in 1796. In 2008, Phillips got purchased by the Russian Mercury Group and has seen much change since then. What are the ambitions for the auction house now going forward?
Phillips has rapidly evolved in recent years. They [The Mercury Group] have been very supportive of our strategy, which has resulted in continued growth and a market share increase of 3% year on year. We’ve consolidated our position in the market and are strengthening Phillips for the long-term.
You can’t speak about the future of the art market without mentioning Asia. There’s a huge appetite for art in Asia that has grown exponentially over the past 15 to 20 years. The demand for Western material there has grown as tastes and buying habits have developed, and there is a growing community of major collectors across the region. We are committed to broadening our presence in Asia, with a bigger office opening later this year, alongside the additional recruitment of exciting new hires.
"We have largely built our reputation by offering the artists of tomorrow. This involves taking risks, being bold and keeping our finger on the pulse of the rapidly changing contemporary art market."
Let’s talk about some of the changes in the art world. Phillips is considered to be a ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ auction house by many of our readers. How would you say you acquired this image? What is it that separates you from the other auction houses?
Phillips focusses specifically on modern and contemporary art and design. This gives us an agility that allows us to adapt quickly and explore completely new methods and models to serve art collectors around the world.
We have largely built our reputation by offering the artists of tomorrow. This involves taking risks, being bold and keeping our finger on the pulse of the rapidly changing contemporary art market. By championing artists who are new to the secondary market, with more approachable price points, we have been able to carefully build sales that appeal to more than a small group of mega-collectors. It is exciting to see artists such as Mark Bradford, Adrian Ghenie and Wolfgang Tillmans, who represent a younger generation of artists, gain immense popularity and achieve major prices on the international art market stage.
Our gallery on Berkeley Square, in the heart of Mayfair, has also been transformative for Phillips. We believe it’s the best gallery space in London and has created huge excitement among collectors, dealers and the larger arts community. With the accessibility of our gallery spaces and our strong focus on contemporary art, we’re seeing a class of younger, emerging collectors who are becoming increasingly important to our business.
How important is the internet in this new art world, and how do you employ that at Philips?
Phillips’ website currently offers the most advanced and client-friendly bidding platform in the industry. Our new digital infrastructure increased online bids over 300% in the last year. The digital saleroom enables bidders to live-stream sales and bid in real-time through our website. We also introduced the mobile component, an iOS app that bidders can use via mobile phones and tablets for all aspects of the process. It’s vital that auction houses continue to embrace and use the internet, which has expanded the market space and continues to reach an ever-growing audience.
How do you plan on competing with this as an auction house? In other words, what makes it attractive to buy at auction in this day and age?
As the online space evolves, we will continue to explore completely new methods and models with which to serve art collectors around the world. We are really constantly looking to employ new tools to offer our products and services. It remains essential to offer high-quality material by the most significant artists and designers of the 20th and 21st centuries, and currently the best of which can be found throughout our unique proposition of sales.