Russian-owned Phillips is responding to boycott calls with a Ukrainian donation

Phillips, the world’s third-biggest auction house, said it would donate all of its commissions from Thursday’s top-class art auction — $7.7 million — to the Ukrainian Red Cross.

The announcement by the Russian-owned auction house followed reports in The Post and elsewhere that some collectors were calling for a boycott of the auction house, which is owned by Mercury, Moscow’s leading luxury company.

“Phillips donates 100% of its buyers [sic] Premium and Provider [sic] Commission from today’s evening auction of 20th Century and Contemporary Art for the benefit of the Ukrainian Red Cross Society,” the company said announced on Instagram Thursday morning.

The evening auction of 20th Century and Contemporary Art was set to be a highlight for Phillips, which raked in a record $1.2 billion in global luxury goods sales last year – up 32 percent from 2019. The Global Auction sales for 2021 grew 35% to $993.3 million last year.

But Thursday night’s auction in London, which raised $40 million, was “really tepid,” a collector told the Post.

And in an unusual move, “four or five” lots were withdrawn before sale, Artnet reported. They contained one of the auction’s star pieces.

Volunteers carrying relief supplies enter a Red Cross site in Ukraine
Russian company Phillips’ decision to donate to the Ukrainian Red Cross has been praised by some and criticized as cynical by others.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“They could have gotten cold feet from the press or a lack of interest,” the collector said.

“The response from the seller’s point of view was somewhat disappointing. “It was less than they hoped for,” the collector added.

When reached by The Post, David Norman, chairman of Phillips’ Americas region, declined to comment.

Exterior of the Phillips auction house in New York
Phillips is owned by Mercury, Moscow’s leading luxury company.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Instagram earlier in the week, some art lovers applauded a pro-Ukraine statement by Phillips, while others called it cynical. “They’re trying to portray it as something wonderful,” said one collector.

Stephen Brooks, Phillips CEO
Phillips, led by CEO Stephen Brooks, announced the donation after some collectors reportedly called for a boycott of the Russian-owned company.

While some art enthusiasts said the auction house shouldn’t be “punished” for Putin’s invasion, others said all Russians should be held accountable for the country’s actions. “Was Hitler the sole culprit in Nazi Germany?” asked one.

In any case, the collector added: “It is naive to think that everything can be thrown at Putin’s feet, as if the athletes can continue to perform and pretend nothing happened and as if the oligarchs continue on their yachts could be floating around. It is ridiculous. Russia is a gangster state, like Nazi Germany. Hitler wanted an empire of super Aryans and Putin wants to recreate a mythical Rus.”

A total of 39 of the 41 lots offered were sold. These included bidding wars for John Chamberlain, David Hockney, Francis Bacon and Claude Monet. The highest price was $6.5 million for Hockney’s 1984 diptych Self-Portrait on the Terrace. Issy Woods Chalet, also set a new auction record for the artist as of 2019: $588,000; It was estimated to have sold for $200,000.

Phillips would not go into detail about how it screens its sellers and buyers to ensure everyone is complying with the sanctions. In a statement, a spokesman told The Post: “Phillips conducts careful due diligence before doing business with customers, regardless of nationality. Phillips will not do business with any person or entity affected by sanctions.”

Retired hedge fund manager and art collector Andy Hall said on Instagram Phillips’ donation: “Well, that’s a good start. Phillips, a well-managed, resolute and energetic competitor to the other two big auction houses, should now follow Chelsea and sever all ties with the Russian kleptocracy.” Russian-owned Phillips is responding to boycott calls with a Ukrainian donation


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