Russian Art Week wrapped up in New York last Friday very successfully. Christie’s sold 69% of it’s 390 lots for a total of $13.2 million, just over it’s high estimate of $13 million. The top lot at the auction, Svetoslav Roerich’s Portrait of Nicholas Roerich in a Tibetan Robe sold for $2,994,500 nearly three times its high estimate of $1.1 million. The sale broke the previous record for the artist, set earlier in the week at Sotheby’s sale. The success of the sale is in part the result of reformed expectations. After a disappointing turnout at November’s auction, Christie’s, “had to readjust,” said the head of Christie’s Russian department, Alexis de Tiesenhausen, “The estimates now are about 20 percent less than in November.”
Sotheby’s held their sale before Christie’s on Wednesday. About 65 % of their 308 lots sold for a total of $13.8 million, within their estimates for the auction. The top lot was Ivan Aivazovsky’s Columbus Sailing from Palos, which sold for $1,594,000 million, well over its high estimate of $1.1 million. Svetoslav Roerich’s Three Boddisatvas sold for $262,500, more than triple it’s estimate. In fact, all but one of the ten top lots exceeded their estimates.
Sotheby’s Sonya Bekkerman and Gerard Hill called the sale, “the first test of the season,” and expressed optimism about Sotheby’s performance: “If you consider these results alongside the more than $12 million we achieved for Russian works in last November’s Impressionist and Modern sales in New York, and the nearly $38 million brought in in London in December, it’s clear that the market for Russian art remains buoyant.”
“Columbus Sailing from Palos” – Ivan Aivazovsky
Later this month Sotheby’s and Christie’s will be holding their Spring auctions of Russian art in New York. They have recently made catalogs for the shows available online.
Sotheby’s sale will take place on April 22nd at their office in New York. A pre-sale exhibition of the work to be sold is scheduled for April 17th. Featured artists include Ivan Aivazovsky, Alexandre Iacovleff, Ivan Pokhitonov, Vasili Polenov, Nicholas Roerich, and many others. The top lot is expected to be Aivazovsky’s Columbus Sailing from Palos, which has a pre-sale estimate of $1-1.5 million.
Christie’s sale will take place on April 24th at Rockefeller Plaza. The sale will feature many of the same artists up for auction at Sotheby’s, including Ivan Aivazovsky, Nicholas Roerich, and Ivan Pokhitonov, as well as the work of Sergei Gerasimov, Arkadii Plastov and many others. The top lot is expected to be Svetoslav Roerich’s Portrait of Nicholas Roerich in a Tibetan Robe, which has a pre-sale estimate of $900,000 to $1.1 million.
Link to Sotheby’s catalog.
Link to Christie’s catalog.
“The Hunter” – Ivan Pokhitonov
Christie’s will be holding two sales of Russian paintings this month. Their Russian Pictures sale will take place on the 26th of November, and another sale of Russian Pictures and Works of Art will be held on the 27th.
The auction will feature work by a number of important Russian Realists including Konstantin Korovin, Vasily Vereshchagin, Ilya Repin, Isaak Levitan, Ivan Aivazovsky, and Ivan Pokhitonov. Pokhitonov is particularly well represented at this sale. The works up for sale were given to their current owner by the artists son. An article published by Art Daily tells us that, ” the group includes intimate portraits of some of the individuals who played an important role in Pokhitonov’s family life, such as Ivan, The Red Army Soldier […] who, according to family legend saved the artist’s life.” Along with these portraits are several beautiful miniature landscapes, including The Hunter (above). In their online catalog, alongside the image of The Hunter, Christie’s provides a short biography, which relates the work to an excerpt from Turgenev’s collection of stories, Hunter’s Sketches. The comparison is very fitting, and a reminder of the common goals of both writers and artists during Russia’s struggle to redefine its national identity in the 19th century. While Russian authors of the 19th century seem to have gained a wider audience in the west than Russian painters of the same period, both authors and artists were driven to greatness in the rush to preserve and reinvigorate their national culture in the wake of a period of rapid westernization.
Other highlights of the auctions include: Vasily Vereshchagin’s – “Anchinjinga, Pandim and other Mountains in the Clouds” Isaak Levitan’s, “A Farmhouse by a Lake“, and Sergei Gerasimov’s “Autumn in the Moscow Suburbs.”