This past week the Russian art market, in the words of an official from Christie’s , ‘exploded.’ In addition to Sotheby’s three, highly successful sales, Christie’s, Bonham’s and MacDougall’s all held auctions of Russian Art in London. Between the four auction houses, sales totaled an amazing $203 million dollars. The Rothschild Faberge egg and Natalia Gonchorova’s Bluebells attracted a great deal of attention from the media for their impressive sale prices ( $18.5 and $6 million respectively), and Russian millionaires and billionaires seem fixed in the public eye. What is truly impressive about these auctions, however, is not the numbers, but the paintings, sculptures, drawings which have the power to move these enormous sums. Inseparable from the financial significance of these auctions is a cultural significance. What is the attraction? Approximately 80% of Russian art sold at auction is being repatriated. Is Russian art strictly for the Russians? Will these sales spark the curiosity of western collectors? As we follow the market in the future we’ll keep these questions in mind.
On November 29th and 30th in London MacDougall’s held two major auctions of Russian art. The up and coming auction house, run by husband and wife William and Catherine MacDougall, deals exclusively in Russian art, and poses a potential challenge to Sotheby’s Christie’s and Bonham’s places in the market.
Bonham’s held one of its biannual auctions on November 26th. The sale included works by several important 19th century realists including:
Isaak Ilych Levitan
Link to their online catalog
Last week Christie’s held four auctions of Russian art. The focus of their auctions was on silver, porcelain, and other decorative items – most notably the Rothschild Faberge Egg.