Sotheby’s Important Russian Art Auction Takes $15 Million

Sotheby’s London Important Russian Art auction, the first of our Summer sales of Russian Art this week, tonight realised a total of £10,448,450 ($15,079,203) almost reaching the pre-sale top estimate (est. £7,730,000-11,320,000). The auction, which was well-attended, established two new artist records and achieved an extremely healthy sell-through rate by value of 81.4%.

Jo Vickery, Senior Director and Head of Sotheby’s Russian Art Department, said: “I am delighted by tonight’s solid results which have shown that the Russian art market has bounced back to a level of activity not seen for over a year. We can see that a combination of market confidence and collectors’ passion for top quality Russian art produced record results. Early 20th-century blue-chip Russian artists performed especially well, such as Yakovlev’s Art Deco masterpiece Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo, and in the 19th-century section Ivan Shishkin’s Dark Wood fetched the highest price, selling to a private CIS collector for £1.2 million. Collectors bid most highly for works with a good provenance. Highly prized was Vinogradov’s Impressionist masterpiece View of Ai-Petri from a European private collection, which was offered on the market for the first time and sold for six-times the low estimate, establishing a new world record for the artist at auction. Bidding in tonight’s sale was dominated by private collectors from the CIS.”

The highlight of this evening’s sale was Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev’s Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo, which brought £2,505,250 ($3,615,577) – almost three times pre-sale expectations (est. £700,000-900,000). The painting came to auction from a private French collection and was originally owned by Georges- Marie Haardt, Director General of the car manufacturer Citroën.

A rare and rediscovered oil on canvas by Yuri Pavlovich Annenkov, Portrait of Zinovii Grzhebin, dated 1919, performed extremely well and after intense bidding finally sold to a private CIS buyer in the saleroom for £1,777,250 ($2,564,927), well in excess of its pre-sale estimate of £800,000-1,200,000. The painting, which is a striking example of the artist’s distinctive style, undoubtedly ranks as one of the most important works by Annenkov ever to appear on the international market. Zinovii Grzhebin (1877—1929) was an eminent editor who played a vital role in the intellectual life of Russia in the early-20th century.

Commenting on the sale of Annenkov’s Portrait of Zinovii Grzhebin, Mrs. Sylvie Grzhebin, granddaughter of the sitter and the painting’s consignor, said: “I am very proud that my grandfather has today received the recognition from Russia that he was not able to gain in his lifetime. He was an idealist who established a publishing house in Russia to make global literature accessible for the Russian people, but unable to his achieve his goals there, moved to Berlin and finally to Paris to pursue this aspiration. He always wanted to return to Russia, which unfortunately he was never able to do, but he left a strong legacy of literature and culture with his children. I am so very proud that my grandfather has finally received the recognition that he so rightly deserves. I am also very grateful to the framer Christophe Otero who identified the painting in the beginning and started us on this auction journey.”

Another top-selling lot in this evening’s sale was Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin’s oil on canvas The Dark Wood, dated 1876, which sold for £1,217,250 ($1,756,735) against an estimate of £1,000,000-1,500,000. The painting, which measures a monumental 108 by 167.9cm, is a perfect demonstration of the artist’s talent and depicts a thick deciduous forest and a woodland stream running off into its depths.

The first lot of the auction, Sergei Arsenievich Vinogradov’s View of Al-Petri, Crimea, performed exceptionally well and after competition from almost eight bidders it achieved £623,650 ($900,052), a sum six-times its pre-sale low estimate of £100,000. The price established for the painting also represents a new record for the artist at auction.

Another work to set an auction record for the artist was The Rape of Europa by Yuri Ivanovich Pimenov, which achieved £433,250 ($625,266) (est. £400,000-600,000) when it sold to a private CIS buyer.