Sotheby's Russian Art Sales Soar to £13.8m / $17.2m
London, 29 November 2016: Alexander Rodchenko’s Construction No.95, was the star lot of today’s Russian Art sales at Sotheby’s, soaring to a record £3,646,250 / $4,523,173 (est. £2.5-3.5m). Dating from 1919, when Russia led the world in terms of artistic innovation, this is undoubtedly the most important work by the artist to appear at auction in thirty years. The previous auction record for the artist was £420,000 ($646,000), for a 1917 watercolour sold at Sotheby’s New York last year. This is the most valuable work of art sold in a Russian auction this year.
Construction No.95 belonged to a single-owner collection of Russian avant-garde works that opened today’s sale, tightly focused on a brief period around the 1917 revolution. Works by these artists caused a veritable sensation when they first appeared in public, and their reappearance represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire works by names seldom seen at auction. All but two of the 23 artworks offered from this collection were sold today for a combined total of £6,644,875 / $8,242,967 (est. £3.7-5.2m).
Offered from the same collection was The Seventh Dimension, Suprematist Relief by Ilya Chashnik, one of the leading exponents of the Suprematist movement. Estimated at £100,000-150,000, the work flew over estimate to sell for a record £2,408,750 / $2,988,054. Before his early death in 1929 at the age of 27, Chashnik was hailed as one of the movement’s brightest stars. Following the almost total destruction of the archives at Vitebsk during the Second World War, The Seventh Dimension, Suprematist Relief is one of only a few works by the artist to survive.
The most valuable nineteenth-century painting sold today was Ivan Aivazovsky’s early Crimean view, The Coast at Yalta from 1851, one of the finest paintings by the master seascape painter to appear at auction in recent years. Early works from the 1850s rarely appear at auction; this large-scale canvas sold for £488,750/ $606,294 (est. £300,000 – 500,000).
A private collection of works by Ivan Pokhitonov was led by Hunting for Quail in Zhabovshchizna, circa 1902-1906 (est. £200,000-300,000). One of the finest Russian-period works by the artist to come to auction, it sold for £296,750 / $368,118. The idyllic depiction of rich meadowland echoes observations from the pages of Sketches from a Hunter’s Album, by the celebrated writer, and Pokhitonov’s friend, Ivan Turgenev.
In the Donbass by one of Russia’s most influential artists of the 20th century, Alexander Deineka, also set one of the top prices today, selling for £422,750 / $524,421. Never offered at auction before, the painting draws on the artist’s favourite themes of vitality and health, prominent features of the newly imagined “Soviet man” (est. £350,000-550,000).
Our Russian Pictures sale concluded with the auction of 63 works from one of the most significant collections of Russian Non-Conformist Art, assembled over several decades by Jacob and Kenda Bar-Gera. Spanning more than three decades, the works by thirty artists narrate a chapter of Russian art which until perestroika had no official written history.
Altogether, the collection realised an over-estimate £1,423,625 / $1,766,007 (est. £791,600-1.15m) and only four lots from the collection failed to find a buyer. The star work was Oleg Tselkov’s Circus (Diptych) which sold for £131,250 / $162,816 (est. £80,000-120,000).
The Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons sale was led by a bronze monument to Catherine the Great (est. £20,000-30,000), which soared above its pre-sale estimate to achieve £162,500. This depiction of Empress Catherine II as Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of the arts, was based on a famous model conceived by artist Mikhail Mikeshin.
Two pairs of silver candelabra created by silversmiths Ovchinnikov and Sazikov, respectively (both est. £50,000-70,000), which both realised £62,500, also exceeded their estimates. One of the pairs previously belonged to Count Vladimir Alexandrovich Stenbock-Fermor (1847-1896), who formed part of Empress Catherine II’s special regiment known as the Imperial Life Guard Hussars.
A rare silver-gilt and cloisonné enamel kovsh (est. £20,000-30,000), also fetched £62,500, more than double the high estimate.
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