Russian Art Market Remains Strong Despite Geo-Political Situation

NEW YORK CITY — “We did very well,” commented auctioneer Gene Shapiro in regard to the Russian and international art and antiques auction conducted March 29. “All of the items sold went above expectations,” stated Shapiro. “Even with the geopolitical problems in the Ukraine and Russia, we still found a large crowd of eager buyers from not only from Russia, but throughout Europe and the United States. We hammered at $1.4 million overall, so it just goes to show that the Russian market is still strong.”

The first lot of the auction provided quite a bit of excitement as bidders from both sides of the Atlantic filled every available phone line at Shapiro’s to compete for a rare portfolio Das Werk von Gustav Klimt. With the embossed title page and 50 richly printed collotypes, including 10 printed in color and heightened in gold and silver, the set, done in collaboration with Viennese publisher Hugo Heller, was numbered 12/300 and is the only monograph produced during Klimt’s lifetime.

Adding to the rarity was the fact that Heller went bankrupt before finishing the series and many of the unfinished copies were lost. Many of the folios were also split up and sold as individual works of art, stated Shapiro, adding further to the value of the complete set. Among the owners of the portfolio were Emperor Franz Joseph, the first to buy a copy, and American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Estimated at $20/30,000, the Klimt portfolio took off, with bidders hammering away at the lot until it reached a selling price of $114,000, going to an American buyer.

The top lot of the auction was a group of four typed scripts of 1970s screenplays for Andrei Tarkovsky movies. “Tarkovsky is a legendary filmmaker not only in Russia, but globally. He is widely considered to be among the top ten filmmakers in the world,” stated Shapiro. The lot of four typed scripts were for Stalker, Svelty Veter, Mirror and Hoffmanniana. Annotations by Tarkovsky in the Stalker script contained notes in various forms of pens, as well as additions and deletions noted throughout the work.

Stalker was one of his masterpieces,” related Shapiro. “It is as important a film to Russian Twentieth Century culture as The Godfather was here in America.” Estimated at $250/300,000, the lot sold at the high estimate.

The top lot of the paintings was an Isaak Levitan oil on canvas from 1883. Shapiro termed the scene an “esoteric river landscape so typical of his work.” Titled “Savvinskaya,” the small painting measured 10 by 12 inches and was signed in Cyrillic. With a solid provenance of Konstantin Korovin and also the collection of Serge Koussevitzky, the famous Russian composer and Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949, the painting realized a substantial price of $120,000.

Three other Levitan paintings were sold, with a seascape of a ship on the Black Sea bringing $72,000, an oil on board of a Ukraine village went out at $19,200, and a landscape with windmills and a horse drawn cart finishing at $18,000.

“Harbor Scene with Ivan Bunin and Vera Muromtseva” by David Burliuk was well received. Originally purchased by Burliuk’s patron and friend Harry Solomon, the piece descended in Solomon’s family until recently. Bidding on the lot was brisk, with it selling at $33,600.

Two small Agitlak papier-mache Palekh pieces decorated with miniature paintings attracted quite a bit of attention from collectors. The first to be offered was a small decorative plate with decoration depicting cotton gatherers from Central Asia and the other was a box by S. Solinin that depicted a central portrait of Stalin and various depictions of “progressing soviet life.” Both of the lots were estimated at $5/7,000 and each was actively bid to $28,800.

All prices include the buyer’s premium.

The next auction at Gene Shapiro’s is scheduled for fall and will be a sale of Russian, European and American art. Consignments are actively being sought. For further information, 212-717-7500 or

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