“It’s the double whammy of the economic crisis and the volcano,” said Nikolai Bachmakov, a New York-based Faberge expert. “Many dealers and collectors couldn’t get here in time. And people are holding on to their money tighter than before.”
The auction included 55 lots from the estate of New York collector Frances H. Jones, which have been off the market for almost 40 years and generated active bidding. That was the most successful part of the sale, generating $1.8 million, well over the high estimate of $1.2 million.
A persistent telephone bidder paid $182,500 for a carved agate figure of a she-goat by Faberge, more than 12 times the work’s presale low estimate of $15,000.
An elegant blue lapis lazuli bowl resting on legs shaped as gold dolphins fetched $116,500, compared with a $50,000 low estimate. A small pink rhodonite desk clock, also by Faberge, took in $134,500, more than four times its low estimate of $30,000.
‘A Magic Name’
“Faberge is a magic name,” said Karen Kettering, vice president of Russian works of art at Sotheby’s.
The top lot of the day was a bronze depicting four North African horsemen wielding guns, by Evgeny Lanceray (1848-86). A Russian collector in the room bought the work for $326,500, setting a new auction record for the 19th-century bronze master who died of tuberculosis.
A day before the sale, Sotheby’s sent out an e-mail to its clients confirming that the New York auctions will proceed as planned despite “recent travel complications across Europe.”
“People didn’t want to wait till the last moment or risk missing their flights to New York,” said Andrei Chervichenko, Moscow-based collector of Faberge and former owner of Spartak soccer club. “That definitely had an impact on today’s prices. With fine art, you have to touch things, examine things before buying expensive works.”
Chervichenko had to wait seven hours at the airport before boarding a plane to New York on Monday. He took advantage of the often muted bidding and bought several works from the Jones estate, including a carved elephant for $31,250 and a Faberge nephrite box with gold and jeweled lock and hinges for $15,000.
“The prices are much lower than they used to be,” he said. “It’s a great time to buy, especially the pieces that are not so obvious.”
Today, Sotheby’s offered Russian paintings, including a group by Pavel Tchelitchew from the estate of New York collector Ruth Ford. A Russian collector in the room paid $986,500 for a portrait of Ford, depicted as a 26-year-old with streaming dark hair, bettering the high estimate of $200,000. The buyer declined to identify himself and said only that he came to the U.S. before the ash cloud curtailed international travel.
A telephone bidder dropped $1.99 million for a group of 86 works by early-20th-century Ukrainian artists assembled by Yakov Pereman, who lived in Odessa until moving to Palestine in 1919. The Pereman collection was presented for sale as a single lot with an estimated price of $1.5 million to $2 million.
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