LONDON – Sotheby’s second-ever London sale dedicated to Russian Contemporary Art, today realised £4,101,275 ($8,257,917), a sum which was more than £200,000 over the high estimate (estimate: £2.6-3.8 million) and represents the highest ever total for a various owners sale of Russian Contemporary Art. Today’s successful sale, which saw new records set for 17 artists, including among others those for Vassiliev, Chuikov and Koshlyakov, demonstrates the growing demand for Russian contemporary art. This area of the Russian art market has become increasingly important since Sotheby’s pioneered sales in this category in Moscow in 1988.
Commenting in the success of today’s sale, Jo Vickery, Senior Director and Head of Sotheby’s Russian Art department in London, said: “The outstanding results of today’s sale far exceeded our expectations and show that Russian contemporary art is a sector of the art market experiencing strong growth. Sale on sale we are seeing increasing appreciation for artists who are new faces on the auction scene, such as AES+F, represented for the very first time today, and young photographer and artist Oleg Dou whose works sold well. Vassiliev’s “Before Sunset”, our cover lot made a record price at auction for the artist, and we achieved a further 16 auction records. It is worth noting that nearly 30% of the buyers came from outside Russia and the CIS, which suggests the growing international appeal of Russian contemporary art and augurs well for its future development. The auction was a huge success and a strong platform on which we intend to build over the course of the year.”
The top selling lot in today’s sale was Oleg Vassiliev’s (b. 1931) oil on canvas Before the Sunset, which also set a new record for artist at auction. One bidder in the saleroom and another on the telephone competed for almost four minutes for Before the Sunset, which finally sold to buyer in the room for £468,500 – more than £160,000 over its high estimate of £300,000. Two other works in the sale by Vassiliev also performed well – his Walking Away sold for £180,500, over three times its low estimate of £50,000 and The End of the Season realised £23,000, against a pre-sale estimate of £10,000-15,000.
Two works by the artist Semen Faibisovich (b. 1954) also sold exceptionally well. The artist’s oil on canvas Beauty (from the cycle Worker’s Festive march), executed in 1988, met fierce competition from bidders both in the saleroom and on the telephones, and after an intense bidding war ensued between three telephone bidders, the work finally sold for £264,500 – the second highest price achieved in today’s sale – more than four times its high estimate of £60,000. Faibisovich’s oil on canvas On the Moscow Street also did well, selling for £126,500, more than double its pre-sale high estimate of £60,000.
A group of five works by Russia’s first truly conceptual artist Ivan Chuikov (b.1935) performed very well and realised £296,500, more than three times the combined pre-sale low estimate for the pieces (estimate: £85,000-120,000). All five lots sold above their high estimates, but the group was highlighted by the price achieved for Chuikov’s work Untitled, which sold for £96,500 – almost four times its presale high estimate of £20,000, setting a new record for the artist at auction.
Among the artists new to auction represented in the sale, one of the top selling lots was Bronze Warrior No. 4 by the cutting-edge collective of four artists AES+F, which sold for £120,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £100,000-150,000. Two photographs in the auction by Oleg Dou (b.1983) sold for in excess of their high estimates: Tight 2 (from the series Naked Faces) brought £8,125 (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and Paper 2 (from the series Paper and Paints) sold for £7,500 (estimate: £4,000-6,000).
Other works in the sale that achieved good prices in excess of their pre-sale high estimates include the following: Nepravda by Oscar Rabin (b.1928) realised £102,500 (estimate: £40,000-60,000); Black Tunnel by Erik Bulatov (b. 1933) sold for £72,500 (estimate: £30,000-40,000); the photograph Cast Me Not Away from the Presence Vladimir Kupraiynov commanded £70,100 (estimate: £30,000-40,000).
Sotheby’s next sale of Modern and Contemporary Russian Art will take place in London in February 2009, and Sotheby’s next Russian Sales will take place in April in New York and in June in London.