Elite auction houses cancel Russian art sales in London | The art market

Auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams canceled sales of Russian art in London in June, part of the art market’s response to Western sanctions on Russia as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine.

Auction houses hold sales of Russian art in June and November during periods known as Russian Art Week, which attract wealthy Russian buyers.

Sotheby’s said it canceled its Russian art sale in London last June. “We are absolutely rigorous in adhering to current sanctions and are closely monitoring any list updates,” he said in a statement.

Christie’s also said it canceled its Russian art sale in June, citing factors including wartime uncertainty and complex sanctions-related logistical and legal requirements.

“Although Christie’s current sales market in Russia as a whole is relatively small, we have a responsibility to respond to the needs of our customers and to geopolitical events beyond our control,” Christie’s said in a statement. The auction house added that it conducts “enhanced due diligence” when dealing with politically exposed persons and those connected to jurisdictions where sanctions have been imposed.

Bonhams did not give reasons for its decision.

Western countries have taken unprecedented steps to sever ties with Russia, including freezing bank accounts and imposing sanctions on its billionaires, since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Britain on Tuesday imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities as it tried to catch up with the EU and the United States by targeting people accused of supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite these measures, some dealers and advisers told Reuters that the international art market as a whole was unlikely to suffer because the number of Russian buyers had declined since the financial crash of 2008 and that they represented only a small part of the market.

Sales of Russian artworks totaled £37.7 million in 2021 at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction rooms in London, less than 1% of turnover, according to Sebastian Duthy, the CEO of Art Market Research. Sotheby’s and Christie’s did not immediately confirm the figure.

But while auction houses have little financial impact, business has been made more difficult for collectors of Russian art – as well as those who work with them on business – due to fears of dealing accidentally with Russians who could end up on sanctions lists, art market advisers say.

“It makes it harder for Russians and for buyers as well, because you don’t want to be caught buying something from a Russian at this point,” said Barbara Guggenheim, a partner at the US firm. . art consultancy Guggenheim, Asher, Associates.

New York art attorney Thomas Danziger said he advises clients to be wary of dealings with Russians who may still be on the sanctions list. “We advised a client who was considering making a loan to a Russian museum to back off the table,” he said.

Danziger said he feared the artwork would get stuck there: “As Western sanctions mount, we thought there was a real risk that the patrons’ artwork could go wrong. a one-way trip to Russia and end up being expropriated by the government there.”

Reuters did not identify any occasion where this had happened.

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