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The two-part, 219-lot Contemporary art sale is expected to bring $27-40m – “the biggest in terms of dollar value we have ever put together,” says director Michael McGinnis. The top three lots have been consigned by a business foundation and a London dealer.

Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on Red Ground, estimated at $5-7m, and a large self portrait in electric red and black
by Andy Warhol, expected
to fetch $3-4m, have come from the Basel-based Vyler Foundation, while Jeff Koon’s The Aqualung, forecast at $1.5-2m, has been contributed by Anthony D’Offay, who is shortly to close his London gallery.

With Bernard Arnault’s LVMH group reducing their interest in the company to 27.5 per cent, Phillips can no longer call on them to underwrite sales. Last year, LVMH underwrote hundreds of millions of pounds of Impressionist and Modern art for vendors.

The restructuring of Phillips following LVMH’s withdrawal from the front line, and the ensuing period of uncertainty as to the direction the company would take is thought to have undermined efforts to put the May sale together. However, this Contemporary sale would indicate that vendors are still being offered assurances up to a point: “Financial guarantees have become a necessity to compete in the current market,” confirmed Mr McGinnis.

Phillips will announce this week that they are postponing their Impressionist and Modern art sale, probably rescheduling for London in June.

With one report stating that the auction house only had six lots lined up, newly appointed head of paintings Michel Strauss will hope to achieve a dramatic, and confidence-restoring boost to Phillips’ fortunes over the course of the next month.