Over the past few decades the Russian art market in Western Europe and the US has become a place of chaos and confusion due to a surge in misinformation and the falsification of historical facts. A closed circle of stakeholders, including auction houses and renowned art dealers, are operating in a system with the aim to manipulate and control the narrow and specific Russian art market. Initially goodwill was created by gaining the trust of the Russian artistic elite and presenting western “experts” whose objective it was to “promote Russian art and culture”.
However, the knowledge vacuum in applied Russian art was filled with pseudo-academic books and articles and suspicious auctions and exhibitions. Far away from Russia, thus cut from its historical context and archival evidence, these “experts” started to irrevocably damage Russia’s cultural heritage by questioning the authenticity of important works of art and, vice versa, presenting counterfeits as masterpieces. With the support of powerful institutions such as insurance giant ‘Lloyd’s’ and the judicial apparatus of the United Kingdom, these harmful practices are still carried out. All possible measures to prevent the collapse of the status quo were put in place during the 2008 insurance trial involving the Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg the Bouquet of Yellow Lilies Clock Egg (1893), at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
The trial, “Kamidian V Holt (Lloyd’s)”, provides a unique window into the existing western monopoly on Russian art and, together with other controversial cases described, produced clear evidence of the links between leading auction houses, “experts”, established art dealers and major insurance companies. This article depicts the story of the Bouquet of Yellow Lilies Clock Egg and that of other important Fabergé works of art over a period of auction sales and exhibitions in Europe and the US spanning roughly 40 years. It reveals how decades of dubious affairs have created a sphere of negative prejudices around Russian art that have damaged and endangered Russia’s cultural heritage, and caused a lack of confidence among buyers. Unfortunately, the field of Fabergé art is just the top of the iceberg.
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© 2013 Michel Kamidian (Мишель Камидиан).
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