Moscow auctions cause for optimism

Over the course of a week, auctions held by two major auction houses took place in Moscow: on 13 March at Sovkom and on 17 March at Kabinet. Their collections were different, and the public in the hall also represented different sections of Russian art connoisseurs. The Sovkom encompassed a larger period of time, and gathered Russian and Western European painting, graphic art and several lots of decorative and applied art of the 18th-20th centuries, representing a wealth of names and schools – there were a total of 195 lots on display. 100 lots were sold, which was more than 50% of the total. But during the auction, Mr. Tyukhtin invited people to post-auction acquisitions: “After the auction, you can come here tomorrow. Sometimes some real deals are made!” Within the collection, connoisseurs were offered the major thematic string “Hunting”, where the top lot of this auction was featured on the cover – the enormous canvas of R. Frents, “ The Great Prince Vladimir Alexandrovich hunting”. But alas, it was not sold, perhaps because the estimate of 5 million rubles was excessive. On the whole, this marketing decision was successful – classics of this genre were sold with a considerable rise in price: “Wolf Hunt” by E. Tikhmenev, with a starting price of 900 rubles, was sold for 1.4 million rubles; A. Stepanov’s painting “Fox Hunting” with a starting price of 600,000 rubles was sold for 1.2 million, and the classic hunting masterpiece by S. Voroshilov “Elk Hunting”, with the same starting price, was sold for 850,000 rubles.

Majestic mountain landscapes are valued much more highly – for the starting price of 3.7 million rubles, № 93 purchased “Sunset in the Crimean mountains” by I. Velts, while № 34 paid 3 million for “Pink Mountains” by I. Zankovsky. But a real battle was fought for the purchase of the lyrical, transparent “Winter Landscape” by I. Grabar, for which the starting price of 2.5 million rubles kept increasing, between an outside buyer and the purchaser with the card № 38 who was present in the hall, who eventually won, paying a total sum of 3.9 million rubles. Works by artists of the Soviet period sold well: A. Laktionov’s elegiac “Novodevichy Monastery” was sold to an outside bidder for 1.65 million rubles, and V. Yakovlev’s “Portrait of Marshall G. Zhukov” was sold for 1.1 million. Graphic art drew particular interest. An album of I.Shishkin with 12 drawings was sold for 260,000 rubles, exceeding the starting price by a small margin, while the single lot of three drawings by K. Yuon was sold to an outside bidder for 200,000 rubles. The public’s genuine interest in fine items was pleasing to see, and in our opinion there is a certain increase in customer demand at present. For the first time in several years, there was real interest in such a difficult artist as Natalya Nesterova – her painting “The Pool” was sold for 650 rubles. Customers are also prepared to pay considerable sums even for delivery. After the sale of D. Plavinsky’s enormous composition, “Color – musical oval” for 1 million rubles, Tyukhtin added: “The work is located in London (probably at the London branch of Sovkom), and delivery may be made to Moscow for an additional $1000, and for smaller sizes, the cost will be $500 accordingly.”

Kabinet also gathered a full hall. Its collection was more focused: “Russian and European art of the 19th-20th century”, including a quality mini-collection of Russian bronze. Of the 113 lots, 59 were sold, i.e. 51% were sold. The top-lot that was on the cover of the catalogue, the exquisite small watercolor by K. Somov “By Night”, 1918, was sold for the starting price of 7 million rubles. The unique album “Types of Mongolian Tribes”, which has museum and collection significance, did not, alas, find a buyer, although the valuation of this rarity was not very high – 5.7 million rubles. Unfortunately, first-class works by A. Deineki also did not find a buyer- the 1929 watercolor “By the River”, and the very rare sculpture “Hundred Meters”, the prices for which were quite democratic. The works of major artists of the 20th century have always been valued by Russian collectors, and Kabinet offered their works at reasonable prices: “View of d’Ormesson castle” by Alexandre Benois was sold for the starting price of 590,000 rubles, “Mountain Peaks” by M. Sarian for a little over the starting price, for 700,000 rubles, and “The Wise Man and the Girl” by Gudiashvili also for a little over the starting price for 400,000 rubles. Interior bronze is also starting to find connoisseurs. Cabinet sculpture sold well. P. Antokolsky’s “Peter the Great” sold for 1.45 million rubles, a little more than the starting price, “Ossetian on a Horse…” by E. Lansare sold for 410,000 rubles, and N. Liberich’s “Pointer” dog had several bidders, selling eventually for 440,000 rubles. There was also considerable excitement about I. Shishkin’s etchings – they were priced modestly at 20-25,000 rubles, and sold with a large increase of 40-50,000 rubles. Engravings by V. Matet were also sold with this price increase.

The auction organizers were satisfied with the results. The visible interest of the customers made itself felt in the volumes of sales.

Nadezhda Nazarevskaya, antiques columnist