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19 August 2022

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bmir, Business mir #15 - 2010-01 MAIL PRINT 
Christie’s Fine Art Department in London organised a special two day auction from October 12th to 13th, 2009 featuring items from the “Galerie Popoff” collection. The public was presented with a wide range of fine Russian Art items to choose from, the lion’s share of which were porcelains. Alexis de Tiesenhausen, the International Head of the Russian Art Department at Christie’s, agreed to comment on the results of the auction and to share his views on the Russian Art market’s current trends in an exclusive interview with Business Mir.
What is your opinion of the Christie’s Russian Art auction view that was held in London on October 12-13? Did the volume of sales match your expectations and what types of masterpieces were sold? The two day auction of “Galerie Popoff: An Enduring Passion for Russian Art” made sales of £5,539,275/$8,752,055.
Alexandre Alexandrovich Popoff’s (1880–1964) collection was in high demand throughout the sale, especially in bidding on the two interior views of his Parisian apartment, painted by Alexandre Serebriakoff (1907–1994).
Good prices were also obtained for Alexandre and Berthe Popoffs’ portraits, both by Zinaida Serebriakova. The highest price was attained by the representation of The Popoff’s Doll, Teddy Bear and Toy Elephant, also by Serebriakova, which sold for £127,250 – at ten times higher than its lowest estimate.
There was significant interest in porcelains with Imperial Provenance; the presentation cups and saucers made for Catherine the Great and Empress Maria Feodorovna by the Imperial Porcelain Factory of St Petersburg both sold for £157,250/$248,455. Furthermore, the 22 porcelain pieces with provenances of the Order of St George, the Order of St Vladimir, the Order of St Alexander Nevskii and the Order of St Andrew First Called all sold, with 60% of the lots selling above their highest estimates.
There was substantial interest in traditional collector’s items, including objects with recognisable cultural symbols such as the Order porcelains and Russian textiles, especially the collection of late 18th century Kokoshniks. Russian works of art also did well, like the Fabergé signed two-colour gold vodka cup, which sold for £25,000/$39,500 at five times above its lowest estimate.
Does Christie’s plan to organize any other activities based on Russian art, for example a Christmas or New Year celebration auction in Switzerland, Moscow or elsewhere? Beginning in the early 1970s, Christie’s has held Russian Art sales first in Geneva, followed by sales in New York and London on a regular basis. The season begins in April with one sale in New York; followed by a London sale in June and ending with a Russian Art sales week in London in November/ December. Subsequent sales were held in London on December 1st – 2nd, where works of art and paintings by the most renowned Russian artists, such as Fabergé, Roerich, Iakovlev, Bogoliubov, Shishkin, Pokhitonov and others were auctioned.
We are organising regular visits and exhibitions in Russia, mostly in Moscow and St Petersburg. Lately we showed a small selection of the Popoff Collection at the Bolshoi Theater in conjunction with various events for private clients.
Previously, we held big exhibitions at the Pashkov House, The Tretyakov State Gallery, The Russian State Museum and Chertkov House, among other places.
What kinds of buyers are interested in purchasing Russian Art items? Are Russian buyers predominant? Interest in Russian Art has grown in the past decade, mostly driven by new Russian buyers inspired by the long tradition of Russian art collectors such as Shchukin and Morozov. However, Russian clients don’t just buy Russian artworks; they are also active in many other areas of the international art market.
Items related to Russian heritage and history are in high demand and are mostly bought by Russian clients. Some of Russia’s most renowned modern artists, such as Natalia Goncharova, are no longer offered in Russian Art Sales but feature in the company’s prestigious Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sales due to a truly international interest in these artists.
What forms of Russian Art and which periods have proven to be most popular with buyers? Over the past few years we have witnessed a particular increase in Russian buyers’ interest for Impressionist and Modern Art, Old Masters’ Paintings, Contemporary Art as well as Jewellery and Watches.
How has the financial crisis affected the art market, especially Russian buyers? Has it had an influence on prices and have you observed a decline in global demand? The collapse of the financial markets last year resulted in a lack of confidence for many collectors and this affected some areas of the art market. As the year progressed, many collectors have found increasing stability regarding their financial situation, and as time goes on we are seeing a renewed confidence in the market.
The global market has proven to be stable and adapted to the current economic climate. Our 2009 international auctions have seen consistently solid sales figures at sales held around the world – most notably in London and Paris in February, in New York and Hong Kong in May and in London in June. While many other markets have remained frozen, we have continued to observe liquidity and participation in the art market at every level across various categories and geographical locations. Whilst overall sales volumes have declined across the board, strong sell-through rates by lot in our sales in the first six months of this year (up 5% since 31 December 2008 to 78.3%) and sustained price levels demonstrate that art continues to hold its value.
While the overall volume of works offered at Christie’s has decreased since the first half of last year, it is important to note that this trend is entirely distinct from individual prices paid for works of art. These figures have generally either decreased slightly, or not at all in many cases.
We are seeing more disciplined buying than in previous years, but there is still a strong demand and committed bidding for well-estimated, unique and soughtafter works of art despite the current economic challenges.
How has this strong demand manifested itself? For example, the auctions of Impressionist & Modern Art and PostWar & Contemporary Art at King Street, London in February and June clearly demonstrated the continued stability of the market, evidenced by strong sales figures at all of our international auctions to date.
We also witnessed a surge of confidence in the Asian market at our series of Spring sales in Hong Kong, which totalled HK1.07 billion/137 million, giving Christie’s a 61% market share in the region. Although total sales did not match the early 2008 market peak, average lot values exceeded Spring, 2008 figures. The results underscored a significant increase in cross-category and cross-cultural buying, along with the appeal of established and emerging artists from the region in wine, watches, fine gems and quality jewels.
Christie’s exceptionally successful May Evening Sales in New York of Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art achieved a combined $253.7 million/£154.9 million in sales and had significantly high sell-through rates, signalling a clear and resounding vote of confidence in the market from various collectors around the world.
Sell-through rates of Christie’s most recent watch sales in Dubai, Geneva and Hong Kong have all exceeded 90%, underscoring not only Christie’s ability to carefully curate sales that are perfectly suited to the market in each location, but the continuing international appeal of exceptional timepieces.
At the Paris sale of Yves-Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé's collection in February 2009, multiple world auction records were set for artists and the top lot, Les Coucous, Tapis Bleu et Rose, 1911 by Henri Matisse sold for €35.9 million/ £31.9 million/$46.4 million. 16 works of art sold for over €5 million and 61 works of art sold for over €1 million.
The works we sell are neither artificial nor derivative, but rather reassuringly tangible – they have an inherent value that makes them relatively valuable items for investment over time. Although prices will fluctuate, the value of our trade is never questioned.
Prices in certain categories of the art market are settling at new levels (e.g. we have noticed a pronounced decline in prices for Post-War and Contemporary Art works of art, although this must be considered in the context of their meteoric rise in recent years), but buyers continue to be active in these categories. Traditional categories such as Old Master Paintings, English Furniture, Works of Art and Chinese Classical Paintings, continue to command high values and remain in strong demand as seen in our sales throughout the year. At our Spring sales season in Hong Kong, several categories, including Chinese Works of Art, saw an increase in value from the 2007/2008 peak.
Traditionally, there is but a limited correlation between the stock markets and the art markets.
Christie's do not consult directly on art bought solely for investment purposes, but many of our clients have found the art market to be an appealing and often rewarding means of capital investment.
Would you subscribe to the opinion that the crisis could possibly have a positive influence by forcing the prices on the art market to become more realistic? Over the last year we saw the return of true collectors, competing once more for top quality works. This is due to a price adjustment which took place over the past months. Investors and hedge-fund managers have left the market and made room for the true art connoisseur to be active again.
Would you advise potential investors to purchase art now that the prices have gone down due to the crisis? And if so, in which categories? Yes, this is the best time to purchase good quality art in any category, be it Asian, Russian, American or British art and even furniture or jewellery. But be aware of the fact that top quality objects are still sought after by all international art collectors and are selling for the same prices as before the crisis.
How do you see the future of the Russian Art market, do you foresee long-term growth? It is interesting to see that Modern Russian artists such as Goncharova, Malevitch and others have achieved an international recognition and that young, contemporary Russian artists are also sought after by the international art community. We anticipate potential for growth in these areas over the coming years.
The more traditional and established artists such as Fabergé, Somov, Levitan, Pokhitonov, Shukhaev and others will retain their value and it might even increase. Overall, we expect that the Russian Art market will continue to be strong and extend to the international market for works dating from the early 20th Century.
Does Christie's provide alternatives for potential vendors to sell their collections other than at public auctions; through private sales for example? Yes, Christie’s has offered the possibility of private sales for many years. This suits the needs and requirements of some consignors and clients, who prefer to avoid the open market but still like to benefit from Christie’s unparalleled service and international client outreach. Private sales totalled £267.6 million/$487.0 million last year.
bmir, Business mir #15 - 2010-01  MAIL PRINT 
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