Auctioneers and owners bank on Russian recovery

Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:24am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Auction houses are banking on a recovery at next week's series of big Russian art sales in London, at which they expect to show that the market dominated by new money is through the worst of the recession.

With most at stake are Sotheby's and Russian specialist MacDougall's, who together offer works worth between 27 and 39 million pounds ($45-64 million). Christie's the world's largest auction house, has pre-sale estimates of 6.5-9.3 million pounds.

The figures are sharply down on a year ago, reflecting how financial turmoil and falling stock and property values have hit super-wealthy collectors from Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and deterred owners from selling their best pieces.

Sotheby's, for example, expected its 2008 winter sales to fetch between 29 and 41 million pounds. The actual result was 25 million, marking a significant drop in values which had soared during the previous five years or so.

This year Sotheby's estimates have halved to 15-21 million pounds, reflecting a more selective pool of buyers and limited supply, as sellers hold out for a return to the heady days of 2007 and early 2008.

"There are less lots on offer," Jo Vickery, Sotheby's senior director, told Reuters. "We've been much more selective in the current economic climate, looking particularly for works with a very good provenance.

"There is considerable demand out there but at the moment, supply is less."

William MacDougall, director of MacDougall Arts Ltd., said he expected prices to continue to recover from recent falls.   Continued...