Contemporary Russian Art



Although contemporary Russian artists have not yet generated the exceptional prices that artists like Damien HIRST or Jeff KOONS command, they nevertheless represent a dynamic market that is ready for broader international exposure.

Over the last decade, their price index has risen 65%, even after the sharp correction in 2009 (minus 30%).

In fact, the Russian contemporary art scene is particularly ebullient at the moment, despite still being subject to censorship. In Moscow, the two organisers of the 2007 exhibition entitled Forbidden Art – 2006 on the theme of censorship in art have finally been sentenced to a pay a fine. Current Russian art expresses a strong mood of dissent and it is being collected not just by a young wealthy Russians, but also by Europeans and Americans. London and Paris have become particularly good outlets for Russian artists.
Meanwhile… Moscow has woken up to contemporary art with the first edition of its Biennial in 2005, the Contemporary Section of Tretriakov Gallery and the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture created by Dasha Zhukova in September 2008. Contemporary art also being a matter of prestige, numerous galleries have opened in the Russian capital.

At auctions, a dozen or so Russian artists clearly stand out from the rest, fetching prices above $100,000. The market’s favourites are Vitalii & Aleksandr KOMAR & MELAMID, a subversive duo who rework the imagery of Soviet propaganda, usually with oil on canvas. Their auction record of £550,000 ($847,000) was set in London in April 2010 and was five times the pre-sale estimate (Meeting between Solzhenitsyn and Böll at Rostropovich’s Country House, Phillips de Pury & Company).
Among the top auction performers there are Semyon FAIBISOVICH (who has generated 5 of the 10 best auction results), Leonid PURYGIN, Grisha BRUSKIN, Serguei VOLKOV, AES, the duo Vladimir & Alexander DUBOSSARSKY & VINOGRADOV, Konstantin ZVEZDOCHETOV, Maxim KANTOR and Vladimir KUPRIANOV.

Apart from Grisha Bruskin whose Logies, Part I fetched an extraordinary $380,000 at Christie’s New York branch in November 2000 versus a pre-sale estimate of $15,000 – $20,000, the other artists all obtained their auction records in London between 2007 and 2008 with results ranging from $116,000 (Cast me not away from your Presence by Vladimir Kuprianov) to $530,000 (Soldiers, Train Station Series by Semyon FAIBISOVICH).
A budget of between roughly $20,000 and $30,000 is sufficient to acquire interesting paintings by any of these artists. In the case of Vinogradov & Dubossarsky, some of their oils on canvas can still be bought for between $8,000 and $10,000 despite the fact that certain prints of the duo’s work fetch over $5,000.

Some young Russian artists – whose works have had very little secondary market exposure – stand out from the crowd, particularly those exhibited at the 53rd Venice Biennial in 2009. The seven artists in that show were: Alexei KALLIMA (only one auction result for a drawing, Compréhension mutuelle, €3,800 [$5,423] in 2007 at Artcurial), Andrei MOLODKIN (his petroleum sculptures fetch $20,000 – $40,000), Pavel PEPPERSTEIN (his drawings change hands for €2,000 to €5,000 on average) Anatolij SHURAVLEV who has been absent from auction rooms for three years, Sergey SHEKHOVTSOV who had his auction debut in 2009 (his sculpture Throne, estimated at £6,000 by Macdougall Arts in London was bought in), Georgy Ostretsov and Irina Korina neither of whom have had secondary market exposure.

Also, most of the russian artists exhibited at the MEP (Maison Européenne de la photographie de Paris) are newcomers and even unknown in auction houses. The exhibition “Photographie de la nouvelle Russie, 1990-2010” (Photography of new Russia, 1990-2010) which is held until 29th August 2010 within the framework of the France-Russia year 2010, gives the opportunity to discover little-known works of Yevgeny Kondatov, Yuri Kozyrev, Vladimir Mishukov, Georgy Pervov, Valeri Schchekoldin, Vladimir Siomin, Aleksander Sliusarev, Vladimir Viatkin, Mikhail Yevstafiev or Igor Mukhin.