The UK major auction houses are holding traditional Russian Art Auctions from May 28 to 30. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Russian art sales. The first days of the auctions are already quite impressive.
London auctions Russian art twice a year – in the fall and spring. Spring auctions are more of a reconnaissance to find out collectors’ preferences. Things are different this year. All auction giants – Christie’s, Sotheby’s, MacDougall’s and Bonhams are auctioning their top lots to mark the anniversary. Many of them have never been on sale before.
The items’ pre-estimated value is millions of dollars. Thus, the Still Life (Bluebells) by Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova was sold for over $4,6 mln.
Vasily Vereshchagin’s Spybattle canvas depicting the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 fetched $1,6 mln. MacDougall’s sold Apples and Eggs still life by Kozma Petrov-Vodkin for $3, 6 mln while Mikhail Larionov’s avant-garde Flowers on the Table was bought for some $2 mln.
Christie’s best sellers were The Yellow Sultana by Leon Bakst ($1,5 mln) and Pyotr Konchalovsky’s Spanish Landscape (over $ 1 mln).
Russian art is mainly bought by Russians and CIS residents, says Alex von Tiesenhausen from Christie’s and that’s not surprising as every country favors its national art. However, things were different 40 years ago.
"The market was different and we had no Russian buyers. When I just began working at the Russian Art Department I was surprised that there was almost no Russian-speaking staff. Our buyers were people of Russian origin or Russian art-lovers and experts who were happy to get great works for almost nothing."
In the late 1980s, when the so-called perestroika began, the world became interested in everything Russian trying to understand the USSR through Russian art. After the Union had collapsed, the interest went down but Russian buyers emerged.
Today’s collectors feel nostalgic for the times of good deals.
Russian art is expected to hit all price records. Bonhams is auctioning two canvases by Zinaida Serebriakova Floraand Jurisprudence that are pre-estimated at over $1 mln each.
These antique-style paintings for a villa of a Belgian baron tycoon had been lost and then found and put on sale after restoration work. This will be the most expensive Serebriakova ever auctioned.