On November 29 MacDougall’s set a record for Soviet realist painter Aleksandr Deinek (1899-1969) when the large-scale Heroes of the first five year plan was knocked down at £2.2m to a Russian buyer against a £2m-3m estimate.
Painted in c.1936, it was a typically monumental example from the artist’s thematic series extolling the virtues of the ‘new’ Soviet worker as they are shown striding toward a bright future.
While all other works in the series are now in museum collections, this example came from an American vendor.
Sotheby’s had hoped to better this sum with Deinek’s The Coal Miner from the collection of Raymond Johnson, co-founder of the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.
However, like half the lots in a dedicated 122-lot auction of Soviet-era art on November 28, it failed to sell.
MacDougall’s also posted a record for Andrei Mylnikov (1919-2012) when Bathers by the River from 1974 fetched £220,000 against a £50,000-70,000 estimate. The Russian art specialist firm reported a total of £9.85m.
William MacDougall told ATG: “Soviet period art did especially well, with new world records for Deineka and Mylnikov. I think the market is looking past the politics and seeing high quality art done by Russians in the middle of the 20th century."
Sotheby’s overall total from its three Russian sales was £14.24m, while Christie’s posted £13.3m from its single Russian sale. The latter was led by a still-life previously believed to be by Mikhail Larionov but now attributed to Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962).
Estimated at £500,000- 700,000, it sold at £2m.