Today the Swedish auction house Auktionsverk began its second auction of Russian Art this year. The 493 paintings, drawings, sculptures, icons, and decorative works are expected to fetch more than $9.2 million. The auction includes work by several important realist painters of the 19th century including Isaac Levitan, Leonid Pasternak, Ivan Shishkin, Ilya Repin,Vladimir Makovsky,Valentin Serov and Vasily Polenov. Polenev’s portrait of his student and friend Issac Levitan is considered by Auktionsverk to be the highlight of the collection. The painting has been ‘missing’ for nearly a century, and was discovered in a private collection in Europe. It is expected to sell for up to $530,000, making it one of the auction’s top lots, second only to Ivan Aivazovsky’s, “Classical Poets by the Water’s Edge in Ancient Greece,” which has an upper estimate of $622,000.
Browsing the auction’s catalog on-line, one of the exciting smaller works I found was a study for Ilya Repin’s famous Barge Haulers on the Volga. There is also some interesting soviet-era work by Konstantin Gorbatov.
Beyond the quality of the work itself, the auction is significant in that it helps establish Auktionsverk as a force in the Russian Art market. Auktionsverk will be competing with the world’s two largest auction houses – Christie’s and Sotheby’s – but they remain optimistic about their future in the market. The head of the Russian art division at Auktionsverk told Bloomberg news that, “for geographical, cultural and historical reasons, Scandinavia has always been a rich source of Russian art. As a smaller operation we offer both buyers and sellers a more personal service.”
The auction will end tomorrow.