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Hundreds of collectors expected in London for Russian Art Week

Starting tomorrow, a range of exhibitions and sales is lined up to tempt buyers

Two trophy lots, Robert Falk’s Man in a Bowler Hat and Petr Konchalovsky’s Family Portrait in the Artist’s Studio, 1917, were sold by Sotheby’s privately to a Russian collector just a few days before art week opened (they remains on view until 25 November)

Russian Art Week in London (22-29 November) opens tomorrow with a range of attractions and exhibitions organised around the city’s major auctions, tempting collectors to jet in for a visit—one auction house specialist estimates that 100 to 200 buyers, mainly from Russia, come to the UK for the sales. The now twice-yearly event was established a year ago by the web publisher Theodora Clarke, who was inspired by Asian Art in London (which has just held its 16th annual event).

Auctions represent the heart of Russian Art Week, and this month’s sales should bring in over £50m. Sotheby’s is expected to lead the way (with four sales), followed by the London-based Russian specialists MacDougall’s, Christie’s and Bonhams.

Two of the trophy lots were sold privately to a Russian collector by Sotheby’s just a few days before art week (they remain on view until 25 November). Robert Falk’s Man in a Bowler Hat went for well in excess of its £3.5m upper estimate and Petr Konchalovsky’s Family Portrait in the Artist’s Studio sold for £4.7m. Both date from 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution.

With these pictures gone, the top of the bill will be a pair of 1833 imperial porcelain vases with painted genre scenes (est £2m-£2.5m) at Sotheby’s on Tuesday 26 November. The day before, Christie’s is offering Aristarkh Lentulov’s avant-garde Church in Alupka, 1916, (est £1.8m-£2.2m), on the open market for the first time.

Bonhams also has a major work by Falk, Lady in Lilac, before 1913, (est £1m-£1.5m), coming up to auction on Wednesday 27 November. The record price for Falk’s work at Sotheby’s may encourage buyers to go for this one. The same day, MacDougall’s major lot is Leonid Chupyatov’s Angels, about 1922, (est £800,000-£1.6m).

Among the four Sotheby’s sales is one with the catchy title Contemporary East on 25 November, the first by an international auction house of art from both Russia and Eastern Europe, with work dating from the 1980s to the present. It’s an innovative testing of the market, to see whether it makes sense to bring these disparate countries together—ranging from Poland to Azerbaijan.

Alongside the auctions there are a dozen gallery exhibitions in London. They include shows by Henry Milner (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design), Valery Valran (Erarta Galleries) and Boris Chetkov (Westbury Hotel), as well as icons (Jan Morsink at Willow Gallery) and Soviet posters (Pushkin House).

Russian Art Week should thrive as long as the market powers ahead. At the £1m-plus price level, many collectors have been buying for a decade or more, usually going for 19th and early 20th works. For paintings, it is mainly Russian buyers, although for decorative art (particularly Fabergé) the market is broader, including America, the Gulf and China. With contemporary art, there is a growing breed of younger Russian collectors. Last year, Sotheby’s says it saw a 33% increase in new bidders from Russia.

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Top of the bill at Sotheby's on Tuesday 26 November is a pair of 1833 imperial porcelain vases with painted genre scenes (est £2m-£2.5m)
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22 Nov 13
15:51 CET


Did someone mention Pussy Riot art?

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