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Nov. 26, 2007 

The auction houses in London are already giving New York a run for its money as the preeminent art-market center. One advantage, certainly, are sales of Russian art held at the London auction houses each November. This year’s Russian sales, which run Nov. 26-29, 2007, promise to be the grandest ever. Some highlights:

* "Russian Art Week" at Christie’s London is the most comprehensive ever, with a presale estimate of £26.5 million-£38 million (ca. $53 million-$76 million) for eight sales, Nov. 26-30. Last November, Russian sales at Christie’s totaled £29 million. The firm can boast of long ties to the Russian art market: Back in 1778, Christie’s sold several works to Catherine the Great that are now in the Hermitage Museum, including Peter Paul RubensMary Magdalen Washing Christ’s Feet for £1,600 and Rembrandt’s Abraham’s Sacrifice for £300.

One highlight of the Christie’s sales is the newly discovered Rothschild Fabergé Egg (1902), which carries a presale estimate of £6 million-£9 million and goes on the block on Nov. 28. Containing a diamond-set automaton cockrill that pops up from inside the egg and crows on the hour, the object was an engagement gift for Baron Edouard de Rothschild in 1905.

Other star lots include a 17th-century icon of St. Theodore Stratelates (est. £120,000-£150,000); a collection of 137 Russian miniatures depicting members of the Imperial Family and other notables; and an early Impressionist-style painting from ca. 1905 by Natalia Goncharova, Lilacs in a Vase (est. £700,000-£900,000).

* Auctions of Russian art at Sotheby’s London begin on the evening of Nov. 26 with a sale of 57 lots, ranging from icons and Fabergé to a dramatic 19th-century Romantic painting by Ivan Aivazovsky called The Wrath of the Seas (1886) (est. £400,000-£600,000) and a Soviet Suprematist porcelain plate by Kazimir Malevich, ca. 1923 (est. £80,000-£120,000).

Sotheby’s top lot is another painting by Goncharova, this one from her "primitivist" phase, titled Bluebells (ca. 1909), from the American collection of Samuel and Phyllis Schreiber. It carries a presale estimate of £3 million-£5 million.

Sotheby’s pair of day sales presents another 480 lots. The firm’s total presale estimate for its Russian sales is £24.5 million-£36 million.

* Bonhams holds its Russian Sale on Nov. 26, offering more than 450 lots, ranging from artworks by Natalia Goncharova, Ernst Neizvestny, Zurab Tsereteli to icons, cloisonné, silver, jewelry and decorative arts that could total £3.4 million.

* MacDougall Auctions, the London-based firm that was launched by William and Dr. Catherine MacDougal, deals exclusively in Russian art. The firm has sales on Nov. 29 (19th- and 20th-century) and Nov. 30 (post-war and contemporary) estimated to total £5 million. Top lots include Konstantin Makovsky’s The Murder of False Dmitry (1906), a roiling ca. 1600 history scene estimated at £500,000-£1,000,000, as well as works by Afrika, Ilya Kabakov, Erik Bulatov, Komar and Melamid, and Dubossarsky and Vinogradov.

The irrepressible New York artist Vik Muniz, celebrated for making images by arranging everything from dust and brown sugar to junkyards, and then photographing the result, has taken his act to Gary Tatintsian Gallery in Moscow. For his "Russian Project," Oct. 31, 2007-Jan. 15, 2008, Muniz has made ten works that recycle widely known Russian artworks, four made from puzzle pieces from his "Gordian Puzzle" collection and six made with dry pigment for his "Pictures of Pigment" collection. The subjects of Muniz’s works range from Vasilii Vereshchagin’s traditional The Apotheosis of War (1871) to works by Kasimir Malevich and Alexander Rodchenko. It was the artist’s first trip to Moscow. For more info, see

One of the hits of the 2007 Venice Biennale was Last Riot, a three-screen video projection by the Russian art group AES+F in the Russian pavilion. Now, New Yorkers who didn’t make it to the summer art fest can take in a 22-minute, single-channel version of the vid at Claire Oliver Gallery on West 26th Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea art district.

Starring a group of androgynous teens who look like they might have stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad, conducting a peculiarly bloodless, slow-motion battle with swords and cudgels in a futuristic computer-generated landscape, Last Riot is described as "an animated virtual world devoid of judgment and ideology," "an era when everything, including war, is sanitized." Prices range from $15,000 for a color photograph (in an edition of ten) to $275,000 for the video (which has been acquired by the Tate for its collection). For more info, see

Since its founding in 1993, Moscow’s XL Gallery has consistently presented Russian avant-garde artists, including Aidan, Dubossarsky & Vinogradov, Oleg Kulik and Monroe. The sole Russian participant in Art Basel Miami Beach, Dec. 6-9, 2007, XL is bringing new works by Bluesoup Group, a collaborative of four artists and architects, whose computer-generated "hyper-real" videos were included in the First Moscow Biennale in 2005. In the ten-minute-long Lake, a frozen northern landscape slowly evolves, first into an abyss and then into an evaporating pool that fills the surrounding space with fog. For more info, see

Art Basel Miami Beach has a special exhibition of Russian art. "Russia Miami 2007," Dec. 3-10, 2007, an exhibition of contemporary Russian art and culture organized by State Hermitage Museum associate curator Julie Sylvester, goes on view in the Collins Building in the Miami Design District. Participants include Afrika, Aidan, Nikolay Bakharev, Sergey Bratkov, Petr Denisenko, Georgy Gurianov, Timur Novikov, Natasha Struchkova and Gennady Ustyugov, among others.

The show is accompanied by a catalogue (featuring a short story by Victor Pelevin), and is sponsored by the Russian Investment Group. The exhibition promises to be a "point de recontre." For details, see

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