Commercial galleries Auctions Market United Kingdom

Confidence high for Russian Art Week in London

Collectors expected to brush aside political and economic worries

MacDougall’s is offering a striking work by Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich, complete with a luminous serpent: The Doomed City, 1914 (est £800,000-£1.2m)

Dealers expect this month’s bumper auction season in New York to boost buying at Russian Art Week in London, which begins this week (21-28 November). “Such an open demonstration of confidence can only help the Russian art collectors, who will probably ignore their own worries about the rouble losing 40% of its value this year, and a fragile truce in Ukraine,” says Ivan Lindsay, the Russian fine art dealer.

The auction houses—Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams and the specialist MacDougall’s are all participating—are also banking on the success of sales in the previous Russian Art Week, in June, to support their offerings.

Bonhams set a record in the summer for the priciest Russian painting to be sold at a dedicated auction, when Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich’s haunting Madonna Laboris, 1931, sold for £7.9m. Unsurprisingly, Roerich returns to Bonhams this season, where his earlier Lake Hympola, 1917, is expected to exceed its £120,000-£150,000 estimate (26 November). MacDougall’s is also offering a striking work by Roerich, complete with a luminous serpent: The Doomed City, 1914, carries an £800,000 to £1.2m estimate (26 November).

Christie’s 400-lot auction (24 November) includes three pieces being sold by the Conservatoire Russe de Paris Serge Rachmaninoff, including a marble bust of the operatic tenor Leonid Sobinov by Séraphin Soudbinine (1909, estimate £80,000-£120,000).

At Sotheby’s, the market leader in this field in London, three auctions of paintings and works of art (including Fabergé and icons) are supplemented by “Contemporary East”, the only auction dedicated to contemporary art from Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus and the Baltics (25 November).

Around a dozen selling exhibitions also beef up the week. The Moscow collector-dealer Maxim Boxer, who co-founded Russia’s first auction house in 1991 (Alfa-Art, since closed), is bringing 50 works to Erarta Galleries’ London space for the exhibition “Metaphysics in Russian Art” (21-25 November). All the works, priced between £500 and £10,000, will be auctioned at the gallery at the end of the show.

Ivan Lindsay, who deals privately, has what he calls “outstanding” works available for the collectors in town, including Matvej Manizer’s Woman Gymnast bronze, 1947 (a smaller version of the work in Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery), and Vladimir Gavrilov’s familiar image of a Gypsy Girl, 1959.

Older pieces are available at Shapero Rare Books, which hosts “Luxury in Imperial Russia” (21-28 November), while Trinity House is showing “Russian Icons: spirit and beauty” (22-27 November).

A full guide to the events, including talks and museum exhibitions, is available at www.russianartweek.co.uk.

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