Russian Auctions in London 26-28 November 2018 – Statistical Summary

After a 40% slump last June, Russian auction sales rebounded this November from £24m to £35m, just short of the £38m they brought in November 2017. Most the top lots found takers.

Total sales

LOTS OFFERED LOTS SOLD % SOLD TOTAL SHARE
Sotheby’s 462 307 66% £18.84m 53.8%
Christie’s 268 174 65% £7.15m 20.4%
MacDougall’s 277 133 48% £6.32 18.0%
Bonhams 171 104 61% £2.71 7.7%
TOTAL 1178 718 61% £35.02m

Sotheby’s doubled their takings from last June and upped their market-share from 38% to 54%. Bonhams also doubled their take – for the second time running. Christie’s and MacDougall’s continue to run neck and neck, though both firms saw their market-share dip from 28-30% to 18-20%. There were 5% more lots on offer overall, but the market struggled to absorb the increase: the buy-in rate rose 6%, with the percentage of unsold lots up at all four firms.

Top 10

ARTIST TITLE PRICE ESTIMATE FIRM
Makovsky Blind Man’s Buff (c.1900) £4.29m £2-3m Sotheby’s
Pirosmani Georgian Woman (c.1906) £2.23m £500-700,000 Sotheby’s
Imperial Porcelain Vase (1836) £1.81m £800,000-1.2m Christies’s
Konchalovsky Game of Billiards (1918) £1.62m £1.5-2m

 

MacDougall’s

 

Rozhdestvensky Still life with Jug (1921) £849,000 £150-200,000 Bonhams
Schedrin Moonlight over Naples (1827) £630,500 £450-600,00 MacDougall’s

 

Fechin Portrait of a Young Girl (c.1910) £610,000 £250-350,000 Sotheby’s
Ayvazovsky Venice at Sunset (1873) £609,000 £400-600,000 Christies’s
Repin Portrait of Tolstoy (1916) £514,000 £400-600,000 Sotheby’s
Rückert Monumental Kovsch (1908-17) £490,000 £50-70,000 Sotheby’s

All four firms are represented in this week’s unusually broad-ranging Top Ten, which featured both familair superstars and saleroom rarities from: the 19th century mainstream (Ayvazovsky/Schedrin); late Tsarist period (Makovsky/Pirosmani); and early 20th century (Fechin/Rozhdestvensky) – plus two show-stopping works of ceramic/enamel craftsmanship. Four lots cleared £1m compared to just one last June; Sotheby’s again landed five of the Top Ten. Top contemporary price was £78,000 for a Sitnikov Monastery (1987) at MacDougall’s.

Conclusion

Just four works accounted for 90% of the £11m market rebound from June: as I suggested back then, major vendors now seem to prefer to sell pre-Christmas rather than midsummer. Sotheby’s boosted their pre- eminence while Bonhams furthered their recent (relative) resurgence. MacDougall’s, selling at their third different venue in as many sales, saw their receipts dip for the second time in succession – but again outsold Christie’s on the picture front. William MacDougall summed up the Week’s mood of tentative optimism by suggesting the market had ‘overcome the difficulties of low oil prices and sanctions.’ What his competitors feel about things is harder to gauge: they no longer bother issuing post-sale press-releases, which suggests Russian Art may be slipping down their list of priorities.

A FULL REPORT ON RUSSIAN ART WEEK BY SIMON HEWITT WILL BE ON-LINE NEXT WEEK