Howard Rehs had an excellent item in his report last week that probably got buried within his comments on the overall Victorian, Old Master and American painting markets. He pointed out that Nikolai Fechin’s The Little Cowboy was sold in London by MacDougall, the Russian specialist auction house, for a stunning £6.9m which was 10x the estimate.
What was so striking about the story wasn’t the bidding war that seemed to erupt out of nowhere. There were two phone bidders, one who bid in steady, small increments and another who tried to knock the work free. It was bought by the more measured bidder.
The shock came from the fact that it was the second bidding war to break out over the painting in 2010. The first was in New York where Fechin is also considered an American artist because of the quarter century he spent in the country. There his work sold for twice the high estimate. But it was only upon being included in MacDougall’s Russian sale in London seven months later did the price jump so dramatically.