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Russians Pay Dearly for Art by Their Own at London Sale

Sotheby’s auction of contemporary Russian art in London on Feb. 15 yielded sales of £2.6 million ($5.2 million) amid heavy demand from private Russian collectors. By lot, the auction was 80.5 percent sold; by value, it achieved 91.3 percent. The house reports that nearly two dozen artists’ records were set, and about half of the

NEW YORK—Sotheby’s auction of contemporary Russian art in London on Feb. 15 yielded sales of £2.6 million ($5.2 million) amid heavy demand from private Russian collectors. By lot, the auction was 80.5 percent sold; by value, it achieved 91.3 percent. The house reports that nearly two dozen artists’ records were set, and about half of the 113 lots offered sold above estimate. Many of the artists featured in the sale were new to the auction market.

The top price went to an untitled abstract oil by Evgeny Chubarov, painted between 1992-95, which more than quadrupled the high £60,000 estimate to realize £288,000 ($565,632). The sale marked the first time at auction for the artist.

It was followed by Erik Bulatov’s Revolution-Perestroika, 1988, which was being sold from a private American collection and fetched £198,000, or $388,872 (estimate: £80,000/120,000). Sotheby’s called the work “an exceptional example of Sots art” (the Russian version of Pop art).

Yaroe Oko (Avid Eye), 1966-72, by Mikhail Matveevich Shvartsman, was sold from the collection of Greek collector George Costakis, who had acquired the painting directly from the artist in the 1970s. The work realized £192,000, or $377,088 (estimate: $40,000/60,000). And Vladimir Weisberg’s Nude, 1974, sold for £186,000, or $365,304 (estimate: £20,000/30,000).

Joanna Vickery, senior director and head of Sotheby’s Russian department, said interest among collectors “was focused not only on the traditional artists from the 1970s and ’80s—also there was a strong taste for more recent works.”

Increasing ranks of newly wealthy Russian buyers have accounted for a considerable jump in prices for works by Russian artists and have been crossing over into the purchase of major Impressionist, modern and contemporary artworks as well. Sotheby’s said it “is responding to the fast-developing tastes of our increasingly sophisticated Russian clients.”

Last May a Russian buyer paid $95.2 million for Pablo Picasso’s Dora Maar au chat, 1941, the most expensive painting sold at auction last year (ANL, 5/23/06).

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