Bonhams sees private collectors investing in Russian and Ukrainian art market

15:44, 29 May 2008
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Never before has Bonhams seen so many private collectors entering their Russian and Ukrainian pictures and works of art for sale at auction. With the Russian art market currently experiencing such a boom, Bonhams is delighted to present a number of privately owned significant artworks for sale on 9 June 2008 in London.

All eyes will be focused on the star lot of the sale – a magnificent oil on canvas of The Sailboat by Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), which will be sold on behalf of the family of Sir John Rothenstein – Director of The Tate Gallery from 1938-1964. It is expected to fetch £1.5 – 2 million.

The Sailboat will be in good company, alongside other significant paintings by Alexei Alexeevich Harlamoff (1840-1925), Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky (1876-1956), Alexandra Exter (1884-1949), Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky (1846-1920), and Nikolai Fechin (1881-1955), in addition to Faberge, silver, jewellery, works of art and sculpture.

Head of Bonhams’ Russian Sales, Evgenia Teslyuk, says: “There has never been a better time to sell good quality Russian art. The market is particularly strong at the moment as many important pieces are appearing at auction for the first time and discerning Russian and Ukrainian buyers are seeking items with impeccable provenance to add to their collections.”

Several paintings in the spotlight at Bonhams’ June sale are expected to fetch £400,000-600,000. One of them is an enchanting composition of a Young girl blowing bubbles by Alexei Harlamoff. The painting draws the viewer’s eye to the little girl who sits with a bowl on her lap and is mesmerised as she encircles a soap bubble with her hand. The backdrop of a peeling wall not only emphasises the simple setting, but also the beauty of the girl. Sir John Everett Millais, Bt (British, 1829-1896) also employed this effective juxtaposition in his famous work of 1886, Bubbles, seating a young boy on a slab of stone next to a broken flowerpot. Focusing on childhood wonderment, the enduring image was successfully used as an advertising campaign at the end of the 19th century by Pears Soap.

The painting is from a private Scottish collection and has been owned by the same family for over 100 years. Harlamoff enjoyed considerable success in Scotland – holding his first exhibition at the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888. The present owners’ family were so impressed with his paintings that they bought three works at the turn of the century, including this one.

Another painting estimated at £400,000-600,000 is Ponte Rialto, Venice by Peter Konchalovsky, which will be sold from a private American collection. It has been in the same family ownership for the last 30 years. The painting is part of a series of six works created by the artist during his trip to Italy to participate in XIV International Venice Art Biennale in June 1924. Notably, one of these six, Casa Tintoretto, 1924, is in the Museum of Russian Art, Kyiv.

A study for Venice - a huge six-metre panel in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery - by Alexandra Exter also features in the sale, with the same estimate of £400,000-600,000.

A painting by Vladimir Makovsky, Rest on the way from Kiev, is expected to make £250,000-350,000. This highly evocative painting depicts a young woman in traditional dress seated next to a priest. The woman is seen reading from her prayer book while the priest eats his soup. The work has never been seen at auction before and is currently part of a private European collection. 

Also in the spotlight is Corn Dance, a study by Nikolai Fechin – one of the most distinguished Russian artists of the first half of the 20th century. Fechin spent much of his career working in New Mexico in the USA, and it was here in 1930, that he produced the study. The highly charged work has all the characteristics of the Fechin’s style at the peak of his artistic powers. The painting is expected to fetch £190,000-240,000.

The sale will also feature work by three of the most influential Russian non-conformist artists of the 20th century: Lydia Masterkova (b. 1927), Oscar Yakovlevich Rabin (b. 1928) and Vladimir Nikolaevich Nemukhin (b. 1925).

Sola perduta abandonata is a signed oil and collage painting on canvas by Masterkova – one of the great followers of abstract art among non-conformist artists - estimated at £150,000-200,000.

From Oscar Rabin are two paintings - The Kingdom of England, London, expected to fetch £80,000-100,000 – and – French loaf by window, estimated at £60,000-80,000. Both paintings are fine examples of Rabin’s earlier works from what is arguably the best period of his career. The famous London collector and gallerist Eric Estorick acquired both paintings from the artist in 1964 to show them at the first exhibition of Russian non-conformist art, held at his Grosvenor Gallery. The exhibition marked a turning point in the development of unofficial art in the USSR. 

Card Table, a 1967 oil painting by Vladimir Nemukhin, is also estimated at £60,000-80,000.  Playing cards are pivotal to the artist’s oeuvre and the painting is one of his earliest explorations of the theme. Like Masterkova, Nemukhin was a leading member of the Lianozovo group, the most active of the unofficial non-conformist art groups.

Further information and images: please contact Evgenia Teslyuk on +44 207 468 8338 or email russian@bonhams.com

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world`s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son and Neale UK. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America and in  August 2003, Goodmans, a leading Australian fine art and antiques auctioneer with salerooms in Sydney, joined the Bonhams Group of Companies. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street, and Knightsbridge, and a further seven throughout the UK. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston in the USA; and Switzerland, France, Monaco, Toronto, Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 57 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, go to www.bonhams.com

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