In striking contrast to the preceding Russian preference for buying exclusive art, Russian billionaires are now reversing their roles and becoming more commonly known as the sellers of fine art rather than the buyers.
Thanks in large part to the recession, which has left many Russian billionaires financially crippled, auction powerhouses Sotheby’s and Christies are reportedly bring in $31 million worth of Russian art to their high-end auction houses.
With the Russian economy ten percent smaller than it was a year ago, the number of Russian billionaires has taken a steep dive from 110 in 2008 to 35 in 2009. Due to the drop in the art market, the absence of buyers in the target market (Russia), and supply at auction, final bid estimates are much lower this year than they were last year as well.
Despite all of this glum news, Christie’s is hoping to take in roughly $21.6 million from the Russian art auction, in part due to the collection including once-heir to the throne Grand Duke Paul’s porcelain dinner set. Sotheby’s is also hoping to make a pretty penny, with approximately $9 million in Russian art scheduled to be bartered off on November 2.
Despite Alexis de Tiesenhausen, director of Russian art for Christie’s, calling this auction “unique in terms of quality and historical significance,” many are expecting lowball bids since the usual target market is now taking on the role of seller for these fine pieces of art.
Christie’s auction is set to consist of 550 lots, while Sotheby’s will consist of 122 lots, including paintings by Natalia Goncharova and Konstantin Korovin.