Auction House Phillips’ New E-Commerce Platform Brings Artists into the Fold

Phillips is giving artists more control (and a bigger share of the profits) as it ventures into the primary market.

Phillips, the world’s third-largest auction house behind Christie’s and Sotheby's, is setting itself apart with a new e-commerce platform. Dropshop, set to launch later this month, will see the auctioneer enter the primary market with limited-edition releases from the artists themselves.

Red inflatable-looking crown against white background
The platform will be inaugurated with a drop of bronze crowns from Cj Hendry. Courtesy of Phillips

The new initiative is a “response to the generational shift of contemporary artists taking a more active role in self-representation,” according to Christine Miele, Phillips’ new retail sales director of e-commerce. Dropshop will offer a “buy now” model for its regularly scheduled drops from both emerging and blue-chip names.

Are the primary and secondary markets beginning to merge?

According to Phillips, the new platform is the only venture in the international auction sphere “that partners directly with working artists, disrupting the traditional, long-held dynamics between the primary and secondary markets.” Other auction houses have embraced similar models in recent months, a sign that the line between the primary and secondary markets is becoming blurred as artists are increasingly granted more control over the sale and curation of their work. Sotheby’s, for example, launched Artist’s Choice in September, an initiative that sells artwork directly from artists and galleries who then recoup the majority of the sale proceeds.

Dropshop aims to offer new releases monthly, with works available to purchase between a typical price range of $5,000 to $50,000. Creators behind limited-edition releases on the platform will also receive resale royalty commission for works purchased through Dropshop and later resold in a Phillips auction. “No other house has made this level of commitment to Contemporary artists or makers working today,” said the auctioneer in a statement.

Drawing of red crown, hand shown in frame with pencil
A drawing from CJ Hendry, known for her hyper-photorealistic images, will also be sold via Dropshop. Courtesy of Phillips

The platform’s inaugural drop will take place on August 20, when it offers a series of 100 inflatable-looking and red-painted bronze crowns from Australian artist CJ Hendry, alongside a large-scale drawing. Hendry, who in a statement called herself “an impresario masquerading as an artist,” melds the worlds of 2D, 3D, reality and fantasy. She initially rose to fame through her hyper-photorealistic drawings posted on Instagram.

The day before Hendry’s Dropshop release, Phillips’s Park Avenue headquarters plans to host an in-person “treasure hunt” featuring thousands of inflatable plastic crowns. Leftovers will be recycled and used in an upcoming exhibition by the artist, who follows the principles of zero waste in her art practice.

This isn’t the first new venture from Phillips in recent months. It expanded its offerings over the past year after bringing in $1.3 billion in total global sales in 2022—a record for the auction house. In addition to establishing new jewelry sales in Geneva beginning this November, the auctioneer is launching an annual David Hockney auction, with the inaugural sale scheduled for September in London.

Auction House Phillips’ New E-Commerce Platform Brings Artists into the Fold