A big auction of Soviet art includes a hundred and fifty selected paintings and drawings. They are mainly classic works of different decades—from Dmitrii Nalbandyan and Sergei Gerasimov (an exhibition of his works just opens at the Tretyakov Gallery early in April) to those of Soifertis, Osmerkin and Britov.
According to Yury Tyukhtin, head of the auction house, at first they had planned to combine Russian art with Soviet art in the catalogue but, after the market had been analyzed, they decided to focus on the period that is currently the most sought-after one by collectors. ‘At present the situation on the market is difficult and is unlikely to change soon. But it is Soviet art that is an absolute favorite now. Unlike it, Russian classical art sells poorly, and there’s no market in works of the mid-price segment at all. I think a large exhibition at Manege (Romantic Realism. The Soviet Art of 1925-1945—TANR) and other major displays had an impact on the popularity of Soviet art. A sound nostalgia arose. About 10-15 new collectors have recently got into the market, and an enormous demand for that art has appeared. Last year we sold nearly 200 works of Soviet artists from September to December only. It is not ideological subjects of Socialist realism but the high-quality art of the 1950s-1960s that enjoys popularity. A lot of our new clients buy Soviet art to decorate their homes. As for me, it’s a very positive sign’, said Mr. Tyukhtin.
The most expensive lot of the auction is The Landscape with Horses by Petr Konchalovsky (estimate: $400,000-700,000). The way the composition is arranged, the colour scheme, dashing brushstrokes and naked female bathers by the lake express the artist’s interest in Cezanne (the major Russian painter inspired by Cezanne even translated from French and published a book about the artist). In 1924 the painting was displayed at La Biennale di Venezia, in the Soviet pavilion, where the whole wall was devoted to Konchalovsky’s works (it was the first time when the USSR had participated in La Biennale and showed the best of its contemporary art). Nearly all the works were sold right after La Biennale and remained in Italy: The Family Portrait at Ca’Pesaro National Gallery and the other works including The Landscape with Horses remained in private collections. It had been kept there till the last year, when it was bought by Yury Tyukhtin at a Sotheby’s sale.
Another work by Konchalovsky was painted a decade later and has a completely different subject and character: Murmansk. The weir at Tulomstroy. (estimate: $250,000–350,000). In the summer of 1936 the artist and his family went to Murmansk, where the construction of Nizhne-Tulomsk water power station was being finished in a record time. The trip resulted in 3 landscapes, and one of them has just been put on sale.
Pictured in a light, nearly impressionist style, the bright Soviet present can also be seen in The Dmitrov flood gate by Georgii Nisskii ($120,000-150,000). A relatively small drawing-like work is likely to have been painted for a magazine cover or a postcard. But its skillful design makes it an absolutely independent masterpiece of the museum level.
The catalogue features several works by Georgy Savitsky, a son of the painter from the Russian realist school of the 19th century and a famous battle painter, the author of a panoramic painting The Assault on Perekop and illustrations for Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time and Pushkin’s Little Tragedies. Besides an iconic Portrait of the Wife ($25,000–40,000) featured at many exhibitions, The Bullfight ($7,000–12,000), a rare academic work of the painter, has been put on sale. Savitsky graduated from the Academy of Arts in 1915 and was granted a tip abroad, which inspired this painting. A later variant of that subject is kept at Vladimir and Suzdal Art Museum.
The catalogue includes nearly all major names and trends of the Soviet period. There are vivid ink drawings by Mechislav Dobrokovskii, a member of the OST (Society of Easel Painters), a scene at the airport typical of Aleksandr Labas, a characteristic landscape of 1959 by Yakov Romas (an interesting fact: the artist was an adopted son of the revolutionary Inessa Armand), an open-air picnic by Pavel Sokolov-Skalia, unusual for the Soviet art, Sergei Gerasimov’s sketch for E.I. Pugachev’s Revolt and the uncommon works by Konstantin Maksimov, who taught art in Beijing in the 1950s and is extremely popular among Chinese collectors. The collection of the sale includes all the genres which were widespread in the Soviet period such as vivid still lifes, sports drawings, deliberately optimistic genre paintings, various Moscow and Leningrad views including the queue for Auguste Rodin’s exhibition in 1967 pictured by Georgii Lozovoi, and the construction of the Theatre of the Soviet Army in the 1930s in a drawing by Petr Lvov.
The auction takes place on March 31 at 19.00.