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KIEV (Reuters Life!) - Sotheby's is holding its first sale of contemporary Ukrainian art next month, hoping that modest prices set for the relatively unknown pieces will attract collectors during a global economic downturn.
Dozens of works, some with folk motifs, others more contemporary, will go under the hammer alongside Russian pieces in London on June 9.
The Ukrainian offerings are priced between 3,000 and 30,000 pounds ($4,650-$46,500), said Jo Vickery, senior director of Sotheby's Russian art department in London.
"We're not talking hundreds of thousands (of pounds). This is the level for new collectors and what some people in the trade have termed 'crisis art,'" Vickery told Reuters television at an exhibition of the art in Kiev.
"It's art which can sell in a crisis."
Interest in contemporary art has blossomed in Ukraine in recent years thanks to the gallery of billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, which is currently exhibiting the largest ever show of Britain's Damien Hirst.
Hirst, famous for his creatures suspended in formaldehyde, has said there is "a lot of excitement about contemporary art" in Kiev, where often young people queue on weekend nights to see the latest exhibition at the PinchukArtCentre.
Lord Poltimore, Chairman of Sotheby's ex-Soviet Union department, said the house had been eyeing Ukrainian art for some time.
"What I am trying to do is not only find Ukrainian buyers but also introduce Ukrainian art to the West. We're horribly ignorant about Ukrainian art," he told Reuters.
Vickery characterized the Ukrainian artistic heritage as "very much based on figurative tradition" and "with a concentration of color."
Highlights at the auction, according to Sotheby's, include an oil painting that appears at first as an overexposed photograph of a palm tree, by Oleg Tistol, and a painting by Alexander Gnilitsky entitled Rain, reminiscent of a detailed photo of raindrops on a window.
To see the Russian and Ukrainian artwork on offer, see here
Writing by Sabina Zawadzki; Editing by Steve Addison