Colin Gleadell admits to not being able to turn away from the slow motion car crash that is the Russian art market. He spoke to auctioneer Catherine MaDougall who “believes that, while the previous [market] crisis of 2009 was based on objective economic factors, the Russian market now “is not flat. It is just suffering from negative psychology which affects confidence”.
That’s a mysterious distinction that appears to lack a difference. In both cases, no one is buying art for fear that they won’t have surplus cash in the future and must preserve it causing the market to enter a deflationary cycle.
There is something strangely fascinating about the way the fortunes of Russian art have imploded, going from the fastest growing market in the world to the most contracted in just over a decade. And now it is conceivable that there is further to go. The pre-sale estimates for the next round of London sales of Russian paintings and works of art at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams and MacDougall’s in June are between £17.7 million and £25.5 million between them – the lowest for over a decade.
To illustrate this, Gleadell gives a tour of the waterfront, including these examples:
At Sotheby’s more traditional Russian art sale there is further evidence of vastly reduced estimates. A monumental canvas by Konstantin Makovsky that was unsold 18 months ago at £1.5 million is back, looking for £500,000. A painting of a roe deer by the highly rated 19th century artist, Niko Pirosmani, sold in 2011 for £360,000 and is now estimated at £150,000.
Finally, Gleadell shows that MacDougall’s has put its reputation where its mouth is by testing sectors of the Russian market it perceives to have strength. If they’re right, there might be life left in this fascinating category:
MacDougall’s offers a slightly different take on the situation. It is putting faith in the newer markets for socialist realism and non-conformism, and more valuable six figure works by Korovin, Polenov and Pimenov, which have been on the market in the last 10 years, return with significantly higher estimates.
Art Sales: how low can Russian art go? (Telegraph)