Sotheby's expect Malevich to smash Russian record

Fri Oct 3, 2008 3:03am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Sotheby's expects a painting by avant-garde painter Kazimir Malevich to shatter the auction record for a Russian work of art when it goes under the hammer in New York next month.

"Suprematist Composition," painted in 1916, is estimated to fetch over $60 million, reflecting its quality -- Sotheby's calls it "one of the greatest modern paintings ever offered for sale" -- and confidence in the strength of the art market despite the global financial crisis.

"This is an absolute modern masterpiece that dates from the best possible period for Malevich -- 1916," said Emmanuel Di-Donna, vice chairman of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's and head of its evening sales in New York.

"This is arguably a much better painting than anything offered by Malevich, ever," he told Reuters.

Sotheby's said the existing record for Russian art at auction is a painting by Kandinsky which raised $20.9 million in 1990. The Malevich record is $17.1 million set in 2000.

Asked if the valuation was aggressive, Di-Donna replied: "There have been some unbelievable prices for iconic works of art, and Malevich is to Russians what Rothko is to Americans."

In 2007, Rothko's "White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)" fetched $72.8 million in New York in what was then a record for a post-war artwork at auction.

Super-rich Russians have been one reason for the disconnect between the financial crisis gripping the world and soaring prices for top works of art, and they are expected to be out in force for the Malevich sale.   Continued...