By CLAUDIA August 7, 2023
(I spoke with CJ Hendry and Christine Miele of Phillips about their new partnership, and the upcoming launch of Dropshop, an online retail platform set to revolutionize the artworld).
If you are familiar with Australian born, Brooklyn-based hyper realistic artist Cj Hendry, you are well aware of her excellent use of scale, her exacting attention to detail, and exciting sense of play. All of which will be fully displayed during her new immersive “real life concept” in partnership with Dropshop, the new online retail platform originating from Phillips auction house.
On August 19th, from 10am to 5pm, the artist will be taking over the Phillips headquarters located at 432 Park Avenue, to create a Willy Wonka meets fine art wonderland. This promises to be her grandest concept yet. Hendry has focused on recreating red inflatable crowns in bronze with a slick cherry red coating to perfectly mimic glossy pvc plastic. In addition there is a 60”x 60” drawing of a single crown done in her signature hyper realistic colored pencil technique.
Visitors are invited to search for 100 bronze crowns to be hidden amongst 50,000 inflatable plastic crowns, creating the world’s first massive fine art scavenger hunt. “All 100 could get found, boom,” said Hendry, “Then there’s no release, which is very lovely. You usually have to go to Phillips with a whole lot of money, but this time you can come with no money and potentially get something quite valuable.” Whomever finds one will receive a bronze crown to keep, and whichever crowns are not found will be part of the drop the next day August 20th, 10am eastern time at https://dropshop.phillips.com/.
Speaking with Hendry, I asked her thoughts on partnering with such an established house, after starting out by marketing her work herself on Instagram. “Phillips is in my opinion, the institution for online auctions or resales so for them to go straight to the artist and do a drop like this is kind of unheard of, which is kind of awesome.” Hendry said, “I move at a very, very, very, fast pace, and that’s why I’ve never really worked with galleries, because they kind of are a little slow. Well, maybe too slow for the way in which I move. Phillips has been working at my pace and they haven’t questioned anything, and they’ve been down for some weird shit..” Hendry said with a laugh, continuing “What a privilege to partner with Phillips, I just don’t even know what to say. I’m just this little kid doing drawings. I mean I’m not a kid anymore, but you know. I understand the establishment but I’m certainly not in it, so to be going straight to the horses mouth is kind of like what? I don’t have that more established client, and they don’t have what I have so it’s kind of like a perfect storm.”
Instead of an online marketplace, Dropshop will be dedicated to a set number of exclusive works by a specific artist for an entire month, and after that month the works will no longer be available for purchase. “There’s no noise around it except the artist that’s being presented that month.” said Christine Miele, the director of retail, e-commerce at Phillips in a phone call with Whitehot Magazine, “There’s nothing like this where it’s direct to market from the artist, promoting and highlighting the voice of the artist. It’s pretty new and exciting. The idea of an artist takeover for a month at a time, nobody really does that anywhere, even sites that do editions, particularly. This is really very new in all of its facets.”
In 2023 when a click can purchase almost anything, artists are still confined to the traditional avenues of galleries, selling directly to buyers, dealers, and auction houses; and when their art reaches the secondary market, in the U.S. the artists are cut out completely from the profits from those sales. Phillips, one of the oldest and most established auction houses in the world will be the first to change that. For me, this is the most intriguing aspect of Dropshop, that all featured artists will be entitled to 3% of the sales of any piece that is resold at Phillips in the future, giving them a resale royalty commission similar to the Artist’s Resale Right in the U.K.. This is something unheard of in the U.S. and is sure to cause a much needed ripple in the sometimes seemingly static and unmovable gears of the high end art market.
When I asked Miele how the partnership with Phillips and Hendry came to be she told me, “I really thought of her for this because she’s one end of the spectrum. We want to be completely inclusive: everyone from commercial, emerging, blue chip, to estates, so it makes sense to start with her and she embodies the spirit of this department. It’s going to be full of surprises. It’s not going to be stodgy, it’s really going to have quite a breadth of different types of artists. It’s really brand new. Phillips is really committed to innovation and being pioneers in new spaces and I think this is a perfect example of it.”
Phillips will be working hand in hand with partnered artists, collaborating with them and supporting their vision from conception and curation, as well as with fabrication and promotion. According to Miele, the goal is to support artists by giving them the resources and tools to amplify their voices. “This is an artist led platform,” said Miele, “and she (Hendry) is leading the way. Whatever support she needs she asks for, but she’s pretty much her own force.”
Based on her success with past concepts including the immensely popular Blonde and Plaid exhibitions, both also in New York City, I know this will not be one to miss. This will also be the first time in history people will be able to walk into Phillips and potentially leave with not only a piece of original art, but a substantial and quite hefty, bronze sculpture; all without spending a penny. WM
*All leftover plastic will be recycled for use in future work, part of Hendry’s commitment to a zero waste practice.*
Claudia is an artist and writer born and raised in New York City.view all articles from this author