The Rebirth of Russian Art: A Decade after the Fall of the Communist Regime, There Is Stirring Interest in the Vibrantly-Hued and Often Decorative Aspects of Russian Art-Both Period and Contemporary. but Are Today's Post-Soviet Artists Playing Russian Roulette with the Marketplace?

By Meyers, Laura | Art Business News, July 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Rebirth of Russian Art: A Decade after the Fall of the Communist Regime, There Is Stirring Interest in the Vibrantly-Hued and Often Decorative Aspects of Russian Art-Both Period and Contemporary. but Are Today's Post-Soviet Artists Playing Russian Roulette with the Marketplace?


Meyers, Laura, Art Business News


Ever since glasnost and perestoika, Russian art has been gaining popularity in this country and in Europe. Along with the Vivat! festival, there have been a spate of recent exhibits, events and collaborations that evidence a rising tide of interest in Russian art in the West. For instance, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow have shaken hands on a long-term alliance between the two institutions to exchange art works. That same cultural alliance will bring Impressionist works from the Pushkin Museum to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this summer.

Marketplace interest is growing as well. Some contemporary Russian emigre artists, such as San Francisco resident Vladimir Vitkovsky and Philadelphia resident Alex Kanevsky, are finding success in U.S. art galleries. "The market has been really kind to Alex, very quickly, in part because he has a fresh approach to the Russian tradition," noted Richard Rosenfeld of Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia. Kanevsky paints in a loose, Impressionistic figurative style, with both earthtones and splashes of typical Russian reds. "His style is very elusive and translucent," said Rosenfeld. His paintings range from $4,000 for smaller works to $22,000 for larger canvases. Kanevsky's new work will be exhibited in October at Dolby-Chadwick gallery in San Francisco.

A few U.S. art publishers, among them Fingerhut, Marco Fine Arts, Summit Art and Brown Barn, are also issuing editions by contemporary Russian artists living in the former U.S.S.R., Europe and the United States. To publishers, said Elliott Blinder of Marco Fine Art, which has published work by Sergei Ossovsky, "Russian art is different to look at--unusual, very colorful and often decorative."

Period Russian Work Heats Up

There is also increasing interest internationally in period Russian work. In May, a Sotheby's auction of Russian pictures in London set world-record auction prices for a number of artists, including a $1.3 million price for Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev's "Belle (Krasavitsa)" and a $836,000 sale of Mikhail Vasilievich Nesterov's "Vision of the Boy Bartholomew." "The market is just getting stronger and stronger," observed Sotheby's specialist Joanna Vickery. "This was the best sale we've ever had."

Sotheby's has produced Russian-themed sales since the mid-1980s. About a year ago, the auction house decided to launch additional sales for Russian paintings alone, concentrating primarily on early 20th-century and 19th-century figurative works. "There's a large boom in the 1910 to 1920 era," Vickery said. "The center of the market is London, and the prices are being driven by Moscow and London collectors. This sale had more Russian buyers than ever before"

A Flourishing of Russian-Themed Exhibits

Exhibitions of Russian paintings, drawings and photographs spanning the breadth of historical Russian art movements and styles--from icons and folk, landscapes and portraits, avant-garde and Social Realism--are being regularly staged by U. S. and European museums and galleries these days.

For one month this year, the whole town of Baltimore said, "Vivat!--Long Live St. Petersburg." In February, nearly 75 Baltimore art museums, galleries, arts institutions and organizations joined forces to celebrate 300 years of Russian visual arts and culture in a citywide festival. In programming ranging from exhibits of Russian Avant Garde Art, Art of the Ballet Russes, The Faberge Menagerie, Russian Outsiders and a variety of gallery exhibits of contemporary Russian art, to performances of Russian opera, folk music, dance and theater, Vivat! St. Petersburg honored the contributions of Russia's cultural capital to worldwide arts through the centuries.

"It was the largest collaboration this city had ever done," said Dan Lincoln, senior vice-president of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.

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The Rebirth of Russian Art: A Decade after the Fall of the Communist Regime, There Is Stirring Interest in the Vibrantly-Hued and Often Decorative Aspects of Russian Art-Both Period and Contemporary. but Are Today's Post-Soviet Artists Playing Russian Roulette with the Marketplace?
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