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Sotheby's Sells $8.3 Million of Russian Art in London


26.03.2008
John Varoli, Bloomberg News


March 12 (Bloomberg) – Sotheby's sold 4.1 million pounds ($8.3 million) of Russian postwar and contemporary art in London today as demand from Russian collectors pushed prices to records.

The 153 lots offered had a total presale estimate of 2.7 million pounds to 3.9 million pounds. Sotheby's said 31 record prices for artists at auction were set and 12 of these artists appeared at auction for the first time. About two-thirds of buyers were Russians, said Sotheby's.

''Top works fetched high prices,'' said Matthew Bown, a London-based dealer of Russian postwar and contemporary art. ''The market is gradually getting stronger with new buyers coming in.''

Russia's economy has grown for nine consecutive years, creating a pool of collectors willing to spend lavishly. Most purchases have been 19th-century and pre-World War II works, but in the past two years interest in postwar art has increased.

The auction's top lot was ''Before the Sunset'' (1990), an oil painting by Soviet non-conformist artist, Oleg Vassiliev. It sold for 468,000 pounds on an estimate of 200,000 pounds to 300,000 pounds. The hammer price, which did not include commission, was 400,000 pounds.

The painting foreshadows the Soviet Union's demise in 1991. The canvas is primarily black with two white geometric shapes. In the center is a small painted statue of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, pictured from afar and facing a setting sun.

Market Moving

''Russian money is moving this market,'' said the buyer, Catherine MacDougall of London dealer MacDougall Arts Ltd., bidding in the room on behalf of a Russian collector. ''Vassiliev is one of the top postwar artists. This is the top piece in the auction.''

Vassiliev's ''Walking Away'' (1978) sold to a telephone bidder for 180,000 pounds on a top estimate of 70,000 pounds. It was the third-most-expensive lot.

The second-most-expensive lot was ''Beauty'' (1988) by Semen Faibisovich, selling for 265,000 pounds on a top estimate of 60,000 pounds. The oil-on-canvas work depicts Soviet workers happily marching in a May Day parade.

''Warrior No. 4'' (2006) by AES+F sold for 120,000 pounds on an estimate of 100,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds. The work is a life-sized bronze sculpture of a girl armed with a futuristic weapon.

AES+F is a foursome from Moscow that produces installations, photos and videos. They are best known for ''Last Riot,'' a video and photo installation at last year's Venice Biennale.

Sotheby's first London sale of postwar and contemporary Russian art in February 2007 made 2.6 million pounds, surpassing the top presale estimate of 2 million pounds, and setting records for 22 artists.

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