Important November Russian art auction announced

NEW YORK – Gene Shapiro Auctions LLC has announced an important auction of Russian, European, and Latin American art, to take place on Nov. 5, 2008, in New York. The catalog for the auction has been posted online at www.geneshapiro.com, and the printed full color catalog is available for purchase.

Gene Shapiro, president of the company, is confident that this sale will attract many buyers; “Due to the success of our last several auctions, we have been very fortunate to get numerous inquiries about consigning with us, especially from private collectors. This has allowed us access to many high quality works, which are fresh to the market. It has also allowed us to be more selective in our offerings. The total estimate of the November auction is approximately $4-$6 million, and the per-lot average is more than $20,000. Your serious Russian collector will not want to miss this sale.”

Shapiro has also introduced some new works into his sale as well by including a Latin American segment, and several important European works as well. With the art market more global than ever, and buyers branching out from their own national artists, this seems to be a sign of the times. As Shapiro notes, “Certainly the majority of buyers of Russian art are Russian speakers, but these same Russian buyers are sophisticated collectors who also buy Western European art, Asian art, Latin American art, and so forth. Likewise, it is interesting to see the growing trend of non-Russian speakers buying Russian art, whether it be 19th century, avant-garde or contemporary, as they become more aware of the importance of these Russian artists in the greater realm of art history.”

As in previous Gene Shapiro auctions, this auction includes both older and newer Russian artists, ranging from early 19th century to contemporary works of the past several years. Highlights abound across the chronological spectrum. In the antique section of the auction, a rare oil on canvas painting by the 19th century artist Pavel Svedomsky is included at an estimate of $35,000-$50,000. Svedomsky, who studied in Germany and worked in Western Europe, was famous for his detailed genre paintings that matched the best of Western European 19th century genre painters, but with a distinctively Russian flair. Another highlight in this section is a portrait by Leon Bakst, measuring 105 by 129 cm, with expertise from the Tretyakov Museum in Moscow ($125,000-$175,000).

Numerous works by 20th century Russian masters including Korovin, Grigoriev, Altmann, Issupoff, and Tarkhov form a large portion of the sale. These are highly regarded and collected artists, and many of the works have significant provenance and literature/ exhibition histories as well.

Shapiro is especially proud to have a significant grouping of avant-garde Russian works in the auction. The two major pieces of this grouping are undoubtedly two works, both consigned by a private European collector, by Ivan Kliun and Alexander Rodchenko. Estimated at $200,000-$300,000 and $250,000-$350,000 respectively, avant-garde works of this quality rarely appear at auction. Both works previously came out of the collection of K. Stramentov, who was the son-in-law of the famous Greek-Russian collector of the avant-garde George Costakis. A grouping of early works on paper, all to be included in upcoming catalog raisonnés, by avant-garde masters Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov follow.

For Shapiro, one of the best aspects of holding an auction of Russian art in America, is the ability to bring works to market by famous Russian artists who had emigrated at one time or another to the West, not only to America but also including the “School of Paris” artists. Shapiro’s auction house has become one of the main sources for works by artists including David Burliuk, Boris Anisfeld, and Constantin Westchiloff, and Grigory Gluckmann, all of whom emigrated to America but whose works are highly collected abroad. Indeed, as an example, this November auction has no fewer than 15 works by Burliuk. Important works by other émigré artists include a biblical scene by the revered illustrator Arthur Szyk, the largest and most important to appear at auction yet, and several works by the Kiev-born École de Paris artist Isaac Pailes.

While the highlights of the previous section continue almost lot by lot, Shapiro has also become a leader in the Russian contemporary field. Highlights here are also numerous, including a very rare conformist work by Nadezha Elskaya (1947-1978), which itself was acquired from the legendary nonconformist artist Evgeny Rukhin (1943-1976). Rukhin’s work is also represented with a painting that was acquired from the estate of the artist.

Another nonconformist work of note include a large mixed media work by the influential nonconformist Pyotr Belenok ($40,000-$60,000), whose works have recently become very in demand. This Belenok painting was acquired directly from the artist in Moscow by a diplomat in the 1970s. A group of 5 works by Vasily Sitnikov, an enormously important figure of note in the Russian nonconformist movement, follows the Belenoks, and major works by Tatiana Nazarenko and Natalia Nazarenko also enliven the sale.

An important segment of the contemporary works in the auction is devoted to works by “Sots Art” painters, and similar minded artists. These include numerous works by Komar & Melamid, Leonid Sokov, and Alexander Kosolapov. Lot 162 in the auction is a striking image, painted by Komar & Melamid, of their rendition of the ancient sculpture “Discobolus.” ($120,000-$150,000). Indisputably one of the most important Komar & Melamid works to appear at auction, this work is a vibrant indicator of the extent to which Komar & Melamid combined classical training and conceptualism, and is a contemporary masterpiece.

European and Latin American works follow the Russian contemporary section, and they are not just minor additions to an already impressive Russian auction. Instead, they include significant works by highly collected artists. Of the European works, a large oil on canvas still life by the Bauhaus artist, and contemporary of Klee, Max Peiffer Watenphul ($20,000-$30,000), is an important addition. A haunting portrait by the legendary Mexican artist Emilio Baz Viaud, from the 1950s ($15,000-$20,000) is one of the Latin American highlights, as are two works by the million-dollar selling Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez, one of which is an early self-portrait with provenance from the family of the artist.

This auction, which takes place after Election Day in the United States, promises to offer a wide array of important artworks to an international clientele. When asked about the current state of the economy, and how he feels that it will affect the global art market, Shapiro responds, “I think that now, more than ever, is when collectors are looking for unique objects that will hold their value over time. The Russian economy is still thriving, and the buying back of an enormously sophisticated and prodigious artistic heritage will continue.”

The auction will take place on the fifth floor of the Metropolitan Pavilion, located at 123 West 18th Street in Manhattan. It will begin at 10 a.m. EST on Nov. 5, and there will be a full day of exhibition and preview for interested bidders at the same location from noon to 9 p.m. on Nov. 4.

The auction house can be contacted for more information at 917-330-1482, or on its Web site at www.geneshapiro.com.

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