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Russian Art in London Auctions: Record Totals and Prices

Russian art auctions at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s London salerooms, from Nov. 30-Dec. 1, produced record totals and prices for a wide range of artists.

NEW YORK—Russian art auctions at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s London salerooms, from Nov. 30-Dec. 1, produced record totals and prices for a wide range of artists.

Sotheby’s realized £22.2 million ($38.4 million), while Christie’s posted a near-identical £21.9 ($37.7 million). Both houses called the totals the highest yet for Russian pictures and artworks. Christie’s claimed 19 new artists’ records, including the top lot—Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev’s Odalisque, 1919, which fetched £1.7 million, or $2.9 million (estimate: £180,000/220,000). Other artists’ records included: £1.3 million, or $2.2 million (estimate: £200,000/250,000), for Konstanin Andreevich Somov’s Pierrot and a Lady, 1923; £1.24 million, or $2.1 million (estimate: £1/1.5 million), for Marsh at Evening, 1882, by Isaak Il’ich Levitan; and £1 million, or $1.74 million (estimate: £220,000/320,000), for Woman with a Pink Fan, 1922, by Robert Rafailovich Fal’k.

The record prices, Christie’s notes, bring “top- quality Russian pictures and works of art in line with other European artists from a similar period.” Registered-buyer activity indicated 30 percent from Russia; 23 percent, the U.K.; 34 percent, Europe; 12 percent, the Americas; and 1 percent, all others.

Christie’s international director of Russian art Alexis de Tiesenhausen says the house is seeing “ever-increasing buying activity, and the results today demonstrate the strength of the core market for Russian pictures and works of art.” Tiesenhausen adds that Christie’s is committed to “developing the international market for Russian works of art.”

At Sotheby’s on Dec. 1, the top lot was Still Life with Flowers, by Ilya Ivanovich Mashkov. The painting fetched £2.1 million, or $3.7 million (estimate: £200,000/300,000). A pair of Imperial porcelain vases realized £1.5 million, or $2.6 million (estimate: £600,000/800,000).

“The strong sale attracted several new buyers from Russia who were selective and were looking for works of quality with good provenance,” reports Jo Vickery, head of Sotheby’s Russian art department. “We observed particularly strong bidding for 20th-century Russian pictures, Russian porcelain and pieces by Fabergé.”

Also among the top lots: a Fabergé clock that brought £926,400, or $1.6 million (estimate: £200,000/250,000), from a Russian collector. Seven of the top ten lots fell to Russian buyers.

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