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Russian Sales Reaffirm ‘Vibrancy of the Market’

Sales of Russian paintings and works of art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s on April 16-18 realized $70.23 million—nearly identical to the $69.4 million total of a year-ago April.

NEW YORK—Sales of Russian paintings and works of art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s on April 16-18 realized $70.23 million—nearly identical to the $69.4 million total of a year-ago April.

Despite a modest drop in Sotheby’s overall total, from $54.4 million to $50.97 million, the house was the leader by far. The total exceeded the high presale estimate of $48.5 million, and specialists Sonya Bekkerman and Gerard Hill note that the auction included 200 fewer lots than did last year’s sale. Of 515 works offered, 411, or 80 percent found buyers. By value, the auction was 86 percent sold.

At the same time, Christie’s $19.3 million total marked an improvement over last year’s $15 million figure, which included property from a private collection (ANL, 5/9/06, pp. 3-4).

$4.3M Nesterov Work Leads at Sotheby’s

The top lot at Sotheby’s was Mikhail Vasilievich Nesterov’s Vision of St. Sergius, When a Child, 1922. Estimated at $2/3 million, the painting fetched $4.3 million, a record for the artist at auction, following intense competition among three bidders.

Other record prices: $3.4 million for Konstantin Egorovich Makovsky’s Happy Arcadia, circa 1889-90 (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million); $3.2 million for Alexei Alexeevich Harlamoff’s Young Flower Girls, 1885 (estimate: $700,000/900,000); and $1.8 million for Niko Pirosmani’s Arsenal Hill at Night, 1908 (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million).

In all, Sotheby’s notes, nine works were sold for more than $1 million each, and eight artists’ records were set. Given the strength of the overall sales volume, and despite the fewer lots offered this year, Bekkerman and Hill report, the results underscore “the vibrancy of the market and the fact that collectors are looking for top-quality works across all categories.”

Lady with a Parasol, circa 1919-24, by Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova, fetched $1.7 million, bettering the high estimate of $1.1 million. Two portfolios of drawings and gouaches by Boris Dmitrievich Grigoriev—illustrations and drawings for Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamozov, made from 1916-32—brought $1.5 million (estimate: $250,000/350,000).

At Christie’s the top lot was the oil Solomon’s Wall, by Vasilii Vereshchagin (1842-1904), which fell for $3.6 million (estimate: $3/5 million) to a Russian collector. Christie’s international head of Russian works of art, Alexis de Tiesenhausan, remarks that “from the very start, we have been extremely pleased by the incredible interest this work has generated both privately and publicly during its international tour to Tel Aviv and Moscow—particularly the amazing response surrounding its exhibition at The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in March, an exhibition marking the first time the work had been shown in Russia.”

Paintings by Nikolai Konstatinovich Roerich (1874-1947) figured prominently among the top lots, taking three of the best prices of the sale: His Grand Canyon, Arizona, sold for $420,000 (estimate: $300,000/400,000) to an American buyer; his Gilgit Road realized $384,000 (estimate: $300,000/400,000); and Sanctuaries and Citadels earned $360,000 (estimate: $250,000/350,000).

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