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"Little Cowboy" fires up tepid Russian art sales


12:00am GMT

LONDON | Fri Dec 3, 2010 1:28pm EST

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The star lot of a series of Russian art auctions in London this week was "The Little Cowboy" by Russian-American Nikolai Fechin, which fetched 7 million pounds ($11 million), or around 10 times pre-sale estimates.

MacDougall's auctioneers, which specialize in Russian art, said the sale "proved once more the potential of the Russian art market for further growth," although the unexpectedly high price was the exception rather than the rule overall.

Of the three main auction houses targeting wealthy Russian collectors, MacDougall's was the largest, with sales totaling 16.2 million pounds.

That put it in front of powerhouses Sotheby's and Christie's, although even MacDougall's failed to reach the low end of its estimated range which it set at 17 million pounds. Last winter its sales total was 9.4 million pounds.

MacDougall's also boasted the second biggest lot of the week with "View of Valaam Island, Kukko" by Ivan Shishkin, which sold for 1.9 million pounds versus estimates of 900,000-1.2 million pounds.

Sotheby's also fell short of its target this week, raising around 10.3 million pounds worth of Russian art from its three auctions versus expectations of 12.2 million and down from 19.4 million at the same time in 2009.

It pointed out that last year's tally included a single-owner auction worth more than seven million pounds and it also held a separate Russian sale in New York last month worth $14.4 million.

Jo Vickery, head of the Russian art department at Sotheby's in London, described the results as "solid."

Christie's sold Russian art worth 14.9 million pounds, at the lower end of forecasts of 13.4-19.5 million pounds, while Bonhams, a distant fourth place in the market, said it had set a record for the most expensive piece of Russian furniture sold at auction.

A circular table originally placed in the Golden Drawing Room in the Winter Palace, the main residence of the Russian Imperial family in St. Petersburg, fetched 916,000 pounds.

Overall Bonhams' Russian sale made 3.4 million pounds.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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