sales: Bono breaks the mold
An exhibition by three very different Russian
artists, who all suffered at the hands of a repressive Soviet
regime, opens today at MacDougall's, the specialist Russian art
auctioneers in St James's, central London. Legends of the Russian
Underground seeks to highlight artists about whom stories are told,
but very little is on record.
Alexandr Kharitonov's Angel by the Church,
Evgeny Rukhin was an abstract painter who was burned
alive in his studio in 1976, aged 33. Some say he was too outspoken
and was murdered by the KGB.
Vasily Sitnikov, a painter of landscapes and
surrealistic erotic nudes, was sent to Siberia during the Second
World War for using German drawing paper, and was labelled insane.
In the 1980s he emigrated to the US where he died in 1987, aged 72.
Some paintings in this show were rescued by a neighbour from the
skip into which his belongings were tossed after his death.
Alexander Kharitonov was an alcoholic and a jewel
thief before he converted to Christianity and incurred official
disapproval by making mosaic-style paintings of Byzantine subjects
In the past 18 months, MacDougall's has set auction
records of between £100,000 and £200,000 for all of these artists'
works. Those prices have led to numerous owners - diplomats and
journalists who bought the works in Russia, or former girlfriends -
to approach MacDougall's with a view to selling. The exhibition is
timed to coincide with specialised contemporary Russian art sales in
London at Phillips de Pury next week, and at Sotheby's next
Tucked away in a daytime sale at Christie's during
the main Impressionist and modern art sales this month was the most
successful auction of all - the collection of the American artist
and member of the so-called "School of London", R?B Kitaj, who died
last year. Every lot was sold, reaping £6.2 million, double the
Works on paper by fellow School of London artists
Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach were particularly sought after. A
slightly risqué drawing of Francis Bacon by Freud trebled estimates
to sell for £468,500 to London dealer Ivor Braka, and a charcoal
self-portrait by Auerbach sold to Renaissance sculpture dealer Danny
Katz for another triple estimate of £423,700.
Both were records for works on paper by the artists.
Among the few works by Kitaj was the portrait Marynka Smoking,
illustrated on this page two weeks ago, which set a new record for
the artist, selling to art adviser Susannah Pollen for £513,300 -
five times the estimate.
An exhibition by the young figurative painter Reece
Jones sold out before it opened this month at the Dickinson gallery
in Jermyn Street, central London. Fatal Attempts at Re-entry had a
sci-fi feel, with works rendered in a style between Georges Seurat
and Edward Hopper.
Prices for the luminous works, made with layers of
charcoal on paper, ranged from £2,000 to £25,000, and buyers came
from the UK, US, France and Belgium. The show closes on Feb