Date: 17 April 2011
Russian sales heat up
NEW YORK. Despite the prevailing millennium décor which tends toward the overwhelmingly minimalist, this week’s Russian art sales staged at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, both featuring antiques falling into the ornate category, are expected to strike feverish bidding and new record prices. Sotheby’s 12 April auction aims to rake in $11.9m-$16.5m while their rival Christie’s pegs their 13 April sale with an estimate in excess of $5m.
At Sotheby’s, the showstopper should be an 1830 table topped by a Roman micro mosaic replicating an Alexander Orlovski watercolour battle scene of the Russo-Turkish War of 1828 with a gilt bronze base of three Russian Imperial eagles (lot 254, $400,000-$600,000) reportedly made for Nicholas I. “The table may return to Russia,” says Karen Kettering, Sotheby’s Russian works of art specialist.
On offer are more than 60 gilded silver and enamel objects, from cigarette cases to a Feodor Ruckert desk set, around 1900 (est $175,000-$225,000). Kettering says Russians purchase 50% of these cloisonné objects but buyers also hail from the Middle East, US and Europe.
A new twist is that collectors integrate period cloisonné, porcelain and silver into their daily life. For example, Kettering says a Fabergé silver dinner service with 19 different pieces per place setting, dating to 1910, ($150,000-$180,000) will actually be used for dining. “For a long time, these sets languished on the market but now people have bigger homes and entertain more,” says Peter Schaffer of A La Vieille Russie located on Fifth Avenue, which was founded in 1851 in Kiev and later opened in Paris and has long catered to an international clientele. He estimates that 40% of the entire sales will go to Russians.
Plus, Russians are witnessing heightened competition. “Ukrainians, Kazaks and Americans are now buying at the top, easily over $250,000 and prices haven’t stopped climbing,” says Schaffer. “Today, collectors are also coming from North and South America as well as Asia,” says Izabela Grocholski, Christie’s Russian Art department head. She expects heated bidding from collectors of modernism for the Russian immigrant Boris Grigoriev’s Les Enfants 1922 (est $600,000-$800,000), which was exhibited at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts back in 1924.
Taste, too, is changing in paintings: while 19th-century pictures, especially grand views of St Petersburg, will always claim attention, later material is now also being sought. “The new shift is towards Soviet Realism,” says Sonja Bekkerman, Sotheby’s Russian painting specialist. She says paintings by Yuri Pimenov, like his oil The Pianist, 1926 (est $500,000-$700,000) are in demand.
Source: The Art Newspaper