“One of the reasons there’s so much talk about money is that it’s so much easier to talk about than the art,” David Zwirner observes, in Nick Paumgarten’s fresh New Yorker piece “Why Are So Many People Paying So Much for Art?” Paumgarten frames his inquiry against the backdrop of opening day in Art Basel, but the questions seems more than relevant at the heels of this past blockbuster auction week.
Well, we hate to prove Zwirner’s statement right, but the reality is, with the Russian art market, it’s actually pretty rare when you really have numbers to speak of, so indulge us as we report on Sotheby’s Contemporary East auction, which took place today, November 25, in London. Hopes for a resurgence of interest in the Russian contemporary art of the 80s and 90s has been fed by a few recent events: the first, being the somewhat gruesome but inevitable speculation in the wake of the death of New Academy phenom Georgy Guryanov; the second being, the recovery of and publicity around the ASSA-era works of New Artists‘ Timur Novikov, Evgeny Kozlov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Andrei Khlobystin, Oleg Maslov – and the list goes on.
While the Aivazovsky’s are set to come out in tomorrow’s Russian Day Sale, today’s auction included works by Conceptualist staples Ilya Kabakov and Erik Bulatov, as well as recent Russian Pavilion resident Andrei Monastyrsky, the ever-mischeivous Boris Mikhailov, and lost legend Oleg Vassiliev, in addition to Pavel Pepperstein, Oleg Kulik, and Vinogradov&Dubossarsky (all of whom have had a turn or two in the Russian Pavilion, themselves.)
While sales lagged for more than a few pieces, solid prices were fetched by Konstantin Zvezdochetov, Semyon Faibisovich and Evgeny Mitta. Kabakov had the highest lot of the night with Holidays No 6, 1987, which brought in ₤962,500 (about $1,554,150, which put it squarely in the middle of its estimate), but the true star was Guryanov’s The Rower Sergey, 1999, which was estimated between ₤30,000-₤50,000, but ended up bringing in ₤188,500 (roughly $305,000.) Novikov also had multiple pieces outperforming their estimates, a sign of hope for the other New Artists. In Sophia Kishovsky’s piece on the ASSA lawsuit for The Art Newspaper, Baibakov Art Projects’ Kate Sutton is quoted saying that the market for New Artists never had a chance to develop properly. Maybe now is as good a time as ever…?
Find the full auction results here.