(New York City, N.Y.) – A stylized and historical acrylic on canvas portrait of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, done in 1989 by the Russian artist Semyon Faibisovich (b. 1949) and originally intended as cover art for an issue of TIME magazine, soared to $144,000 at an auction of important Russian art and other works held April 17 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.
The sale was conducted by Gene Shapiro Auctions, LLC, a fine arts auctioneer of European and American art and a leader in the burgeoning field of Russian art. The auction date was timed so it would fit nicely between Russian art sales held by Sotheby’s (on April 15-16) and Christie’s (on April 18), also in New York.
“I am very happy that we are now holding our sales in New York,” said Gene Shapiro. “Many major buyers from Russia and Europe came and participated in the auction. It was great to see them physically there in person instead of only on the phones.” He added, “What was really interesting to see was that many of the Old Masters works were purchased by Russian clients as well.”
The Faibisovich painting was the top lot of the more than 250 works that crossed the block. About 90% of the offerings were by Russian artists, but the auction also featured works by European Old Masters, as well as 19th-Century European paintings and genre scenes. Phone and absentee bidding, boosted by the international flavor of the sale, was very strong. Internet bidding on EbayLive was facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com.
When asked about his firm’s success, Mr. Shapiro noted, “We have established ourselves as an attractive auction house, both for consignors and bidders, through a combination of aggressive international marketing, strong results and well-chosen and vetted artwork on offer. We will definitely stick with this strategy, and I invite consignors to contact us and take advantage of our strong results.”
Following are other results from the sale. All prices quoted include a 20% buyer’s premium.
Nine paintings by the highly collected Russian seminal futurist David Burliuk (1882-1967) were offered, and eight of them changed hands. Two were standouts: one was a 32” x 26” oil on canvas executed in 1945 and titled “Flowers by the Sea” ($57,600); the other was a 20” x 24” oil on canvas titled “Australia” ($48,000). Both works sailed past their high estimates; all were signed by the artist.
A pair of works by Russian-born American artists did quite well. One was a 25-1/2” x 34-1/2” oil on canvas by Boris Anisfeld (1878-1973), signed lower right and titled “The Three Gypsies” ($74,400); the other was a 15-1/2” x 10-3/4” charcoal on paper by Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), signed lower right ($19,200). Both works drew intense bidder interest from buyers in Russia and the U.S.
The sale’s second top lot was a 70” x 70” oil on canvas executed in 2001 by contemporary Russian artist Natalia Nesterova (b. 1944), titled “Reflections” ($90,000). Also, two works brought identical prices of $72,000: “Landscape With Cow” (1974), by Oscar Rabin (b. 1928); and “View of the Church of Boris and Gleb, Kostroma, Winter” (1919) by Konstantin I. Gorbatov (1876-1945).
The star of the Old Masters category was a 49-3/4” x 39-3/8” oil on canvas by an unknown European artist, titled “Salome With the Head of St. John the Baptist” ($28,800). Another Old Master painting worthy of mention was a 18-1/2” 25” oil on panel painting by the 17th-century Dutch artist E. Ruytenbach, titled “A Village Scene.” The 1680 work, signed and dated lower left, realized $24,000.
European paintings that did well included an oil on canvas by Harold Clayton (British, 1896-1979), titled “Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Vase” ($19,200); an oil on canvas by Francois Adolphe Grison (French, 1845-1914), titled “The New Coat” ($15,600); and an oil on canvas by Jules A. Garnier (French, 1847-1889), titled “A Break During the Performance” ($11,400). All were signed.
A pair of works by Russian artists achieved $60,000. One was another Oscar Rabin work, a 35” x 51-1/4” oil on canvas done in 1995 and titled “Visa Obiknovennaya”; the other was executed by the seminal figure of the Leningrad underground, Evgeny Rukhin (1943-1976), the Russian equivalent of Jasper Johns. His 1974 mixed media on canvas work titled “Composition With Icon” was offered.
An oil on canvas by Pavel S. Naumov (Russian, 1884-1942), titled “Eve and the Serpent,” gaveled for $48,000; a watercolor and gouache on paper by Abram E.Arkhipov (Russian, 1862-1930), titled “A Smiling Village Woman,” fetched $36,000; and a set of three mixed media works on paper, from the Shower series ‘Make a Story From a Picture,’ by Ilya Kabakov (Russian, b. 1933), hit $31,200.
Rounding out the top lots, a set of six erotic lithographs by Mihaly Von Zichy (Russian, 1829-1906), went for $15,600; a 13-3/4” x 17” oil on panel by Alexei V. Hanzen (Russian, 1876-1937), titled “House on the Dalmatian Coast,” brought $12,000; and a 23-3/4” x 31-1/4” oil on canvas work by an unknown 19th-century Russian artist, titled “A View of Moscow,” hammered for $10,800.
Gene Shapiro was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and speaks Russian, French and Spanish fluently. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in art history and worked in Sotheby’s contemporary art department before branching out as a private art dealer, specializing in Russian, European and American artwork, from Old Masters to the present day.
Capitalizing on his experience and contacts in these fields, he launched Gene Shapiro Auctions, LLC. In its brief existence, the smaller but specialized auction house has established a solid reputation for selling high-quality works with excellent provenance.
Russian art will continue to be the firm’s primary focus, but Mr. Shapiro believes in offering his customers the opportunity to bid on beautiful Italian, Flemish and French Old Master works as well. “The best collections are those that comprise a mixture of art from different time periods, as well as different nationalities,” he said. “I will continue to offer this mix in my auctions.”
Gene Shapiro Auctions, LLC, is always accepting quality consignments for future sales, especially works by Russian artists, Old Masters, and European and American artists. To consign a single piece or an entire collection, you may call the firm at (917) 330-1482, or you can e-mail them at [email protected]. For more information about the company, log on to www.geneshapiro.com.
Gene Shapiro Auctions, LLC’s next sale will be in New York sometime in the fall, most likely in October. Watch the website for more details as fall approaches.