THE latest Russian art sales in the capital saw the continuing recovery of an important sector for London’s auctioneers. The market may lack the free spending seen before the downturn in October 2008 but the June sales were significantly up on the equivalent series last year.
The overall hammer total for the auctions last week, conducted
by four firms, was close to £36m, a marked improvement on the £25m
seen in 2009 but still down on the 2008 figure which was in excess
While bidding battles emerged on prized works of art by Fabergé
here for separate story), Russian pictures also posted solid
performances with one or two standout prices. As is often the case
in these sales, these tend to reflect the fierce competitions when
private buyers are prepared to delve into their deep pockets to get
what they want.
Sotheby's held their Russian evening sale on
June 7 - a select offering of 26 paintings which raised a hammer
total £8.9m against a presale estimate of £7.7m-11.3m. In all, 17
The top lot was Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev's (1887-1938)
Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo which was
knocked down at £2.2m to a Russian private buyer and made the
highest price of the series.
One of the most famous images from the artists' African
expeditions, it was consigned from a private French source having
originally been owned by Georges Marie Haardt, director general of
the car manufacturer Citroën. It was estimated at
Another Russian private buyer bid £1.55m for a 1919 portrait of
the editor and publisher Zinovii Grzhebin by Yuri Pavlovich
Annenkov (1889-1974). Estimated at £800,000-1.2m, it had remained
in the family of the sitter after it was painted.
The work was typical of the artist and stage designer's
distinctive style, but it represented a rare opportunity to
purchase a portrait of an eminent intellectual figure by a leading
artist at the centre of the country's avant-garde. Crucially, it
was painted before both men went into exile in Paris in the early
The price was the second highest seen at auction for the
Sotheby's day sale of Russian paintings (£5.3m) and a separately
catalogued works of art sale (£4.4m), both offered on June 9,
raised a further £9.7m to the bottom line.
Christie's main Russian sale on June 8 took
£9.9m against a presale estimate of £7.2m-10.4m with 207 of the 273
lots finding buyers. This sale included a 221-lot works of art
here for separate story).
Here, works by three artists were taken to auction records
including the top lot - Vasya by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin
(1878-1939) which sold for £1.6m against a pre-sale estimate of
£250,000-350,000. Having not been seen in public since 1932, it
sold to an anonymous telephone bidder.
Also generating a heated bidding contest was the still life
Roses and Apples by Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939) that
was knocked down at £800,000 against an estimate of
£100,000-150,000. In this case, it made the third highest price
seen for the artist at auction.
MacDougall's Russian Classic and Contemporary
Art sale on June 10 generated a hammer total of £5.95m and was the
most lucrative of their three sales of the week. The top lot was
Arsenal Hill at Night by Niko Pirosmani (1863-1918) which
was knocked down at a low estimate £900,000.
The Russian art specialists also staged a £710,100 icons sale on
June 7 and a works on paper sale on June 10 which was still
underway as ATG went to press.
Meanwhile, Bonhams held their Russian sale on
June 7. It made a hammer total of £1.57m with 126 of the 258 lots
By Alex Capon