Auction houses eye Russian recovery ahead of sales

Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:46am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Rich Russians return to London next week for a series of art sales which auctioneers hope will prove the once-booming market is on a path to growth.

Estimates suggest expectations are for solid gains on last year, although they are likely to prove far less spectacular than the astronomic prices being paid by Chinese buyers for Chinese art in recent sales ranging from London to Hong Kong.

"You've got to look at consignment," said Jo Vickery, head of the Russian art department at Sotheby's in London, when asked why the upcoming sales look set to fall short of results from two to four years ago.

"There is less art work on offer at the moment than there was two years ago, but I think that is changing," she told Reuters. "A lot more people (sellers) are coming in now for next year and there is a sense there will be more art on offer.

"Stability has brought people back, and prices are holding."

Sotheby's expects to raise more than 12 million pounds ($19 million), less than last year's corresponding total of 19.4 million pounds, although that included a single-owner auction worth more than seven million pounds.

The auction house also just held a Russian sale in New York which fetched $14.4 million, meaning overall it is looking for slight growth.

"We're feeling quietly positive," Vickery said. "We've had a stable last few years and there is a growing sense of optimism in the market."   Continued...