Russian art sales seen down, focus on iconic works

Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:03pm EDT
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Economic woes could push down prices of Russian art at sales next week which will include landmark historical works and a jeweled Fabrege flower encrusted with diamonds, according to auction houses.

Russian millionaires have fueled a boom for Russian art in recent years, which sent prices for paintings as high as $60 million and the cost of a single Fabrege egg to $18 million.

But Sotheby's and Christie's expect sales to be just a fraction of the total they reaped last year.

"Before they could buy across the board at all prices ... they could buy several items," said James Hastie, chief of Christie's Russian department.

He suspects some buyers may snap up just a single piece.

Paintings by Nicholas Roerich, a 20th century artist and philosopher, could be a big draw, according to Scott Niichel, a Sotheby's Russian specialist.

Roerich lived in Tibet for years and founded the Agni Yoga Society, a non-profit education institution.

"To a lot of his followers," Niichel said, "(his paintings) are spiritual icons."   Continued...

<p>Photograph shows "Columbus sailing from Palos," by Ivan Aivazovsky, an oil on canvas dated 1892. It is expected to fetch up to $1.5 million at Sotheby's Russian art auction on April 22 in New York. REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout</p>