Last month, a gallery in Luxemburg made some extravagant claims against Anatoly Bekkerman, his ABA Gallery and the dealer’s daughter who heads the Russian art department at Sotheby’s. The ABA Gallery has issued a release responding to the lawsuit:
“In addition to lacking legal merit, the claims by Arthur Properties have no basis in fact – no one has previously made such claims against Mr. Bekkerman during his more than 30-year career.
“The allegation that four of the paintings sold to Mr. Savchuk are not authentic is absurd. For example, the painting by Ivan Shishkin, “In the Woods,” was published during the artist’s lifetime in an 1892 catalogue. Following its discovery and purchase by Mr. Bekkerman, the painting has since been identified as a lost masterpiece by leading experts. A world renowned authority on Russian art has issued an expert opinion that “In the Woods” is an authentic work. The same expert has also confirmed the authenticity of Semiradsky’s “Roman Family at Leisure,” another of the paintings in question, which is also a rediscovered masterpiece. Regarding the remaining two paintings in question, Mr. Savchuk’s own expert admits that Bakalovich’s “Dinner Party” is an authentic work and does not conclude that Goncharova’s “Magnolias” is not authentic. That expert has raised questions about the alleged absence of the artist’s signature on the painting, but the painting is clearly and legibly signed in the lower right-hand corner by the artist.
“With respect to the prices Mr. Savchuk paid, A.B.A. Gallery sold the paintings at prices reflecting the market at the time of sale, as the Russian art market was undergoing, and continues to experience, high demand and strong growth. These were transactions between a willing buyer and a willing seller, and Mr. Savchuk was free to accept, reject or negotiate to his satisfaction the price of each painting – which he did – and to consult with any experts of his choosing. At the time of purchase, Mr. Savchuk expressed no concerns with either the quality of the works or with the prices he negotiated.
“While the value of any artwork is necessarily subjective, objective evidence of fair market value was readily available at the time. In 2007, a record price of approximately $5.4 million was set in the secondary market for a painting by Ivan Aivazovsky. That same year, Mr. Savchuk agreed to purchase from Mr. Bekkerman one of the paintings in question, Aivazovsky’s “Seascape withPeter the Great,” a historically important and culturally significant work, and one of the largest to come on the market in over 20 years. Postcards of the work were published in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and there is a photo with Aivazovsky himself in front of this painting. Mr. Savchuk’s claim, more than four years later, that he was “overcharged” by 80 percent by agreeing to pay Mr. Bekkerman $4 million for “Seascape with Peter the Great” in 2007 is simply not credible when a significantly smaller work of less historical significance by the same artist sold at auction that same year for $5.4 million. In fact, it is quite possible that Mr. Savchuk underpaid for “Seascape with Peter the Great.”