Alexander Payne On Phillips’ Upcoming International Auctions and Art Collector Trends

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Phillips is the destination for international collectors to buy and sell some of the world’s most prestigious and important works of art. Haute Residence caught up with the renowned company’s worldwide Head of Design and Deputy Chairman, Europe, Alexander Payne, who dishes on Phillips’ upcoming  Important Design and Casa di Fantasia auctions, what sets Phillips apart from others in the industry and the overall art trends among collectors in 2019.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Payne — Phillips Design

Tell us about the two auctions you have coming up?  

We are extremely fortunate to have extraordinary material this season. In our Important Design auction, we have outstanding examples of 20th-century design by masters such as Carlo Mollino, Ettore Sottsass, Jr., Hans Wegner and George Nakashima. I particularly love a piece designed by the architect Osvaldo Borsani: a wardrobe featuring painted panels by the artist and his close friend Lucio Fontana. An irregular application of paint across the four door panels creates an impression of organic movement, drawing the viewer’s gaze across the shimmering surface. It’s really quite spectacular.

We’re also working with Italian auction house Cambi to sell the collection from an apartment, Casa Lucano, in central Milan. The apartment was designed by Gio Ponti, one of the greatest talents in the history of design. The sale of the ‘Casa di Fantasia’ showcases Ponti’s highly individual approach to design and represents a very rare opportunity to really appreciate the achievements of post-war Italian design at its highest level. This is a unique opportunity for collectors to witness this milestone in the masters’ oeuvre, and to walk through this metaphysical landscape.

What can international collectors expect from these auctions?

Exceptionally fresh-to-market material that offers collectors a great opportunity to acquire essential pieces to build their collections. A broad range of price points also offers both longtime connoisseurs and emerging collectors the chance to experience new objects that would enhance any collection. We hope these sales inspire and excite our clients across the world by celebrating great design objects through our auction catalogs, online stories at and team of specialists on hand to discuss the works in detail.

What makes Phillips stand out from competitors in the industry?

We have a reputation for delivering carefully organized, museum-quality auctions showcasing both emerging and leading designers. Most importantly, our international team is built up of specialists who have been together for more than 10 years, with close connections and many decades of combined experience. And we have a passionate desire to tell the multilayered story of decorative arts and design from the earliest days of the 20th century all the way to the present day. We are passionate about education and take a scholarly approach to our sales. Storytelling and making connections is something we enjoy, and in our Important Design sale this month we’ll be showcasing the great Carlo Mollino with the lesser-known but equally important architectural duo Mario Asnago & Claudio Vender – telling a story that offers a linear connection in Italian design from the 1930s to 1950s. We are acutely focused on inspiring the next generation of collectors.

What is the overall trend you are seeing among collectors in 2019?

It gives me great satisfaction to see a much broader market developing that’s not intensely focused on one or two decades. Across our London, New York and Hong Kong auctions we’re seeing a more global buyer with an interest in multiple areas of the 20th and 21st centuries. We now see collectors exploring different names in different eras, including blue-chip pioneers of the early 20th century such as Pierre Chareau, Jean-Michel Frank and Alberto Giacometti. The next generation of collectors is focused on a uniquely individual approach to collecting, and we see collectors moving back further into the 20th century with a newfound appreciation of Art Deco and Modern masters such as Eileen Gray, Paul Iribe and Jean Dunand, as well as others targeting Post-Modernism and the next generation of contemporary design. Meeting this challenge makes my job endlessly fascinating.

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