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Sotheby's to offer contemporary art by artists from across Russia, Ukraine and the Caucasus
Oleg Vassiliev, Twilight (1990) Est. £150,000-200,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Alongside the traditional auctions of Russian Paintings and Works of Art in London this November, Sotheby’s will present the second instalment of ‘Contemporary East’ – the only sale dedicated to contemporary art from across Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus and the Baltics staged by an international auction house.

Following the inaugural ‘Contemporary East’ sale in November 2013, this year the sale returns with nearly 70 paintings, photographs and sculptures by both established artists and emerging talent , offering a fresh perspective on the artistic output from a region often unrepresented on the international market. With estimates ranging from £1,000 to £150,000, the sale carries an estimate of £1.2 – 1.7 million.

The sale reflects the increasing number of new and young collectors from Russia and other former Soviet Republics entering Sotheby’s international sales and the growing interest in an ever wider range of artists. Last year, Sotheby’s saw a 35% increase in the amount of artwork purchased by collectors from across the region. In parallel with this, Russian buyers are becoming increasingly active in Sotheby’s Contemporary sales: there has been a 10% increase in the number of bidders participating in this category year on year.

The Contemporary East sale continues Sotheby’s tradition of moving beyond the traditional framework of Russian art auctions to champion contemporary artists from Russia (and beyond). Since 2013 the company has staged two selling exhibitions of art from the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the first ever auction dedicated to Soviet-era photography.


Using archetypes drawn from Russian visual culture of the first half of the 20th century, Gurianov’s work shows a recurrent obsession with male power and virility. In the early 20th century, avant-garde utopianism created heroes fit for everyday life in a new world seen in the photographic art of Alexander Rodchenko and the early work of Soviet painter Alexander Deineka. Such youthful and athletic images of men and women were used as a propaganda tool by the young Soviet state.

Despite appropriating these loaded visual references, Gurianov’s images of athletes and sailors, such as seen in The Dive, are essentially life-enhancing. Devoid of any obvious political ideology, they are both eternally optimistic as well as playfully subversive.

The second painting by Gurianov, The Tractor Driver, is the earliest work by the artist ever to appear at auction and draws on the Soviet cult of the hero-worker.

The sale follows in the wake of the new record for the artist set at last year’s inaugural Contemporary East sale for Rower Sergey (1999) which realised £188,500.

Pavel Pepperstein Heads of Eagle 2 (1993) £50,000-70,000
The son of conceptual artist Victor Pivovarov and children’s book illustrator Irina Pivovarova, the artist continues to combine both influences in his work. Head of Eagle 2 is a rare oil from the early 1990s.

Vladimir Weisberg Nude (1978) £80,000-120,000
Weisberg’s Nudes executed in oil are exceedingly rare to appear on the market and very desirable to collectors of Non-conformist art. In November 2012, Sotheby’s sold another Nude by the artist for £229,250.

Oleg Vassiliev, Twilight (1990) Est. £150,000-200,000
One of the greatest Russian artists of the late 20th century, Vassiliev’s body of work is only now beginning to be properly recognised. Among his most successful works are his self-portraits and pictures of his wife, Kira. Here we see her reading alone by an open window surrounded by a massive black rectangle. Like much late 20th century painting, Vassiliev’s work explored the intersections between figurative art and abstraction.

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