$65 MLN in Russian art on sale in London

By John Varoli (Bloomberg)

Reprinted Courtesy of The Art Newspaper

Four auction houses in London offer for sale this week as much as 41 million pounds ($65 million) of Russian art as the market struggles to reverse a precipitous decline over the past six months.

(For the published version, please click on: For my longer version, with more mention of the Ukrainian sale, please read further)

    The sales include 19th century paintings, Russian and Ukrainian postwar and contemporary art, Imperial vases, Faberge works, silver, porcelain, and Orthodox church icons.
    Four days of sales begin today (June 8) when MacDougall Arts Ltd., an auction house that specializes in Russian art, offers icons from Christian Orthodox countries, including Russia.
    Since November, Russian art sales volumes have had sharp decreases compared to the previous year. Combined totals at Christie's and Sotheby's Russian art sales in New York in April were $27 million, down from $64 million in 2008.
    ``The low point for the market appears to have been a few months ago,'' said William MacDougall, co-chairman of MacDougall's. ``There are a number of positive signs now --- oil prices, Russian equities, and the ruble are all up.''
    ``Confidence is reviving, and people are buying again,'' said MacDougall. ``One collector even told me in Moscow last week that he was frightened that June might be the last opportunity to buy at cheap crisis levels.''
    On June 11, MacDougall's offers Russian 19th and 20th century paintings. The combined sales are expected to reach between 9 million pounds and 13 million pounds.
    MacDougall said that to cope with weaker demand for Russian art it has dropped estimates for less important works, but ``for exceptional works there shouldn't be bargain basement offers.''
    MacDougall's top lot is Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin's modernist work, ``Maternity,'' (1922), with an estimate of 1.1 million pounds to 1.8 million pounds. Ilya Repin's ``Portrait of Madame Alisa Rivoir,'' (1914), has an estimate of 800,000 pounds to 1.2 million pounds. It sells on June 11.
    Repin first painted it as a portrait of the Russian singer Feodor Chaliapin. Using X-rays MacDougall's specialists uncovered the image of Chaliapin's face under that of Rivoir's.
    Also today Bonhams has its sale of Russian art. The top lot is an oil on canvas, ``Repose at Sunset,’’ (1922), by Konstantin Somov. The estimate is 500,000 pounds to 700,000 pounds. Bonhams declined to give a total presale estimate.
    Today in the evening (June 8) Sotheby's holds the first of four sale sessions expected to make a total of between 15 million pounds and 23 million pounds.
    The 28 lots in the evening sale are led by Boris Kustodiev's ``The Village Fair,'' (1920), with an estimate of 1 million pounds to 1.5 million pounds. It comes from a French collection.
    The second most expensive lot, ``Abstract Composition,'' 1915, a bright cubist work by Ukrainian modernist painter, Alexander Bogomazov, is expected to sell for 300,000 pounds to 400,000 pounds.
    Sotheby's top lot for the week is a pair of mid-19th century Imperial vases from the collection of Grand Prince Vladimir Kirilovich, head of the Imperial Family until his death in Florida in 1992. The vases, to be sold as one lot on June 10, have an estimate of 1.2 million pounds to 1.8 million pounds.
    On June 9, Christie's International, the world's largest auction house, will sell as much as 4.8 million pounds of Russian art.
    A painting by Ivan Aivazovsky is Christie's top lot. ``Ukrainian Harvest,'' 1857, is not typical subject matter for Aivazovsky, best known as a seascape artist. The work features windmills and fields of wheat. It's expected to sell for between 350,000 pounds and 450,000 pounds.
    Christie's other top lot is Vasili Shukhaev's modernist, ``A Finnish Village,'' (about 1920), with an estimate of 300,000 pounds to 500,000 pounds.
    On June 9, Sotheby's will sell 109 lots of contemporary Russian and Ukrainian art. This is the first time when Ukrainian art will be given recognition in at a major international auction house.
    ``This is an unprecedented breakthrough,'' said Vitaly Chernetsky, president of the Zorya Inc. Foundation, a Ukrainian art foundation which has a gallery in Greenwich, Conn.
    ``For decades, artists from nations once part of the Soviet Union were identified as ‘Russian,’ creating a perception among Western art patrons that `Russia’ was a place of enormous richness of modern artistic talent while all others, be they Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, or Central Asian states, were only repositories of ethnographic arts and crafts,'' said Chernetsky.
    On June 11, the Zorya Fine Art Gallery in Greenwich opens an exhibition of works by Oksana Mas, a Ukrainian artist. Mas' bright and riveting oil and lacquer canvas, ``Drive 9,'' sells at Sotheby's on June 9. It has an estimate of 10,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds.

Reprinted Courtesy of Varoli Art News