Among the so-called emerging art markets, one of the most active, fruitful and worthy of attention is Russia. Russia's entry into the international market presents reasons for great interest, both for what is on offer and for the demand for works of art. Russia is a country that boasts an ever-increasing stable market, with an enviable growth pattern and a high number of wealthy Russians, who, according to the World Wealth Report, are increasing at a rate of 15% each year. It is this class of nouveaux riches who are making the demand for luxury goods rocket sky high, including works of art.
The area where expectation and interest is the highest is, without a doubt, contemporary art. Following the almost complete absence of this field in auctions over the last twenty years, it has recently created an incredible amount of interest and enthusiasm among international collectors. Sotheby's last auction of Russian art on the 28 November 2011 brought in a staggering £ 5,597,000, a truly amazing feat in these troubled times. However, one must bear in mind that it is still a fluctuating sector, where investments can prove to be fruitful, with the possibility of very high profit margins. However, given the volatile nature of the art market, the risks are also very high. We must, in fact, remember the 1988 Moscow auction, now considered to be an historical sale, where many 'illusions' were sold. It was the era of glasnost and perestroika, and the expectations of the operators of this were very high and were only later to be found to be excessive. For example at this auction, Grisha Bruskin's works appeared to have great potential, however, the potential never materialized and his works are now worth only a third of what they were sold for at the 1988 auction.
Though caution is still necessary, today's market for contemporary Russian art is much more structured. First of all it is backed by a solid group of national collectors and by a solid network of private Russian galleries operating in synergy in order to support more effectively artists on the international market.
Looking forward to potential future investments, the Russian Non-conformist movement offers great potential. Some of the originators of the movement are still living and producing not only artwork but outstanding sales results as well. Among this group are Mikhail Chemyakin (1943-), Vladimir Nemukhin (1925 -), Vladimir Ovchinnikov (1941-) and Oscar Rabin (1928-). Not to be forgotten is the work of Viktor Pivovarov (1937). Along with Ilya Kabakov and Erik Bulatov, he was one of the leading artists of the Moscow Conceptualist artistic movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His work reflected the complete ideologization of the Soviet lifestyle, often simultaneously expressing criticism and nostalgia for this lifestyle. Already part of Russian history, works by these artists are exceptional low-risk investments, for they are sure to generate highly profitable returns in the near future.
Not forgetting the new generation, the future stars of the Russian art scene are emerging now. Identifying these artists will require greater research and a collector able to balance personal taste against future investment value. A good example to keep an eye on is definitely Ilya Gapanov. Part of the new generation of artists, his paintings are sought after by established Russian collectors, the foremost of whom is Evgeny Lebedev as well elite members of the international entertainment industry like Elton John and Lenny Kravitz.
Rinat Voligamsi is another name to watch. Awarded the State Prize of Russia, the highest accolade for the arts, Voligamsi's monochrome paintings are rendered with photorealistic attention to detail. However, the content of each image is given a characteristically uncanny, surreal twist - alterations that can be as comical as they are darkly beautiful and unsettling. His London exhibition in October 2011 attracted much attention, including that of the international press.
Artists such as Ilya Gaponov and Rinat Voligamsi are currently on the rise. These new talents coupled with the artists of the Non-conformist generation and the early Moscow conceptualists are making the Russian art scene as rich and varied as it is dynamic.
I am also pleased to present Past, Present & Future, a group exhibition conceived in support of the Gift of Life foundation. This unique exhibition highlights the great diversity and richness of Russian contemporary art with proceeds donated to the Gift of Life foundation to aid children with cancer in Russia. (http://givelifenow.co.uk/)
Past, Present & Future - Erarta Galleries London, 12 - 28 April 2012 is in support of the Gift of Life foundation.
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