Klimt and Tarkovsky lead the sale at Shapiro Auctions in New York

Gustav Klimt

This portfolio of prints by Gustav Klimt brought an impressive $114,000 at Shapiro Auctions Spring sale

Shapiro Auctions, New York, NY presented a remarkable variety of fine and decorative art among the 434 lots included in the March 29th sale, with a portfolio of collotype plates by Gustav Klimt leading the way with a final price of $114,000. Das Werk Von Gustav Klimt, the only monograph ever published during the artist’s lifetime, presented a collection of fifty poly and monochrome prints of iconic works by the celebrated leader of the Vienna Seccession. This exceptional volume, which served as the opening lot of the auction, was acquired for almost four times its high estimate.

The Russian + International sale brought together a diverse selection, including stunning examples of works by European Old and Modern masters, Russian Orthodox icons, works by 19th century Russian and Easter European luminaries, paintings and sculpture by members of the Non-Conformist movement, antique and rare books, as well as works of decorative art and objects of vertu, including pieces from the famed workshop of Fabergé.

Among the diverse selection of works by Russian and European masters, 19th century country views and seascapes proved to be particularly in demand.  A quiet summer landscape by Isaak Levitan from the collection of the Russian Impressionist artist Konstantin Korovin, was acquired by a collector for $120,000. A small view of a Ship in the Black Sea by the celebrated marine artist, Ivan Aivazovsky, brought in $72,000, while Stanislav Zhukovsky’s atmospheric, Midnight Over the Monastery, raised $24,000, twice it’s low estimate. Landscapes by modern masters were sought after, as well, with each of the four paintings by the Non-Conformist artist Alexander Kharitonov greatly surpassing their estimates (lots 166-169).

an early Soviet Russian papier-mache piece AGITLAK caused a bidding war at Shapiro Auctions

an early Soviet Russian papier-mache piece AGITLAK caused a bidding war at Shapiro Auctions

The works of decorative artists, manuscripts and artist books, including a rare deluxe copy of L`Art décoratif théâtral modern, a collaborative work by the pivotal figures of the Russian avant-garde, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, which sold for $19,200 (original estimate $13,000-15,000) attracted a large number of bidders. Two stunning examples of ‘agitlak’ – varnished papier-mâché with early Soviet imagery painted in miniature – drew an eager audience (lots 356 & 357, sold for $28,800 each). It was a group of four highly important typescripts of screenplays by Andrey Tarkovsky, including an annotated script for the cult sci-fi classic film, Stalker, however, that achieved the highest selling price at the auction, bringing $300,000.

The next sale at Shapiro Auctions is scheduled to take place late May, with a focus on Russian Modern, Non-Conformist and Contemporary Art, followed by a sale of International Post-War and Contemporary Art in November 2014, as well as an auction of Russian + International Art in autumn of 2014. They are currently accepting consignments for each of the sales.

For a free auction estimate or a certified appraisal, please contact info@shapiroauctions.com or call 212-717-7500.

Deeper Underground

by Maria Ybok

Throughout mid thirties till the end of eighties of the 20th century post avant-garde art was in exile in all USSR. It was unanimously unequivocally decided by the then USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev that Soviet people did not need any other forms of art except socialist realism, a kind of blunt art which glorified the role of the meek, working class and its communist leaders. Non-conformist painters such as Oscar Rabin and Oleg Tselkov had been driven underground. In the 1950s they became members of the famous Lianozovo Circle of post-avant-garde artists and poets in a small village outside Moscow. The group of artists collaborated together to mock and explode soviet conventions, creating lyrical expressions and surrealism. In 1974 non-conformist artists craving to show off their alternative art came out from their underground to organize an outdoor exhibition, a very risky venue which was dubbed as “Bulldozer exhibition”. Soviet authorities could not put up with the entire event and swept participants and artists in cold blood, confiscating, destroying the art work, and beating them. Even though both artists achieved prominence and recognition they had left to work and live in Paris.

The theme of paintings and verse is often gloomy industrial landscapes, still life full of mockery and sarcasm. Black and brown somber palette reflects acute disgust with the humdrum and absurdity of soviet existence..

This is a unique painting by Oleg Tselkov, “Two Wine Glasses”, 1995, oil on canvas , 81×65 cm, signed in Cyrillic. This hot painting will be available at Gene Shapiro’s upcoming September auction.  Estimate: $18,000-25,000

Anatoly Zverev


by Maria Koby

Loud dissonant sounds. Think Jaco Pastorious. But also think Russia. Spontaneous pencil strokes are raging on paint, defying conventional living, rules, and regulations. This is a unique, recognizable hallmark style of Russian rebel artist Anatoliy Zverev.

Zverev was a legendary non-conformist artist  who didn’t draw a bright line line between art and life, reluctant to money and material values. He came from poverty, and the poverty was so bitter that he had to go to school wearing unmatching shoes. Unequivocally, Zverev was a nugget who became a painter, artist not by choice or formal education ( he was expelled from an art school for disregard for rules and obedience) but thanks to nature’s calling, coupled with life’s circumstances. His first job as an artist was painting fences and boards at recreation parks to help his family. He later was fired because the director saw him using a mop for paintings which was against the regulations.

Zverev’s style has distinct traces of Tachism, (a style of abstract painting in the 1940s – 1950s characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and blobs of paint straight from the tube) and expressionism. Yet, Zverev’s style is unique, based on his own philosophical convictions, particularly the idea of momentalism, that everything is in constant change. His paintings and drawings aren’t just a recollection but they are imbued with direct sensation, conjuring up intensity, amplitude of moods and undertones.

The Soviet government was suffocating and prosecuting its talented artists. Yet, the paradox was that the more restrictions it was imposing on them, the more liberating and prolific their art was. Zverev was a true anarchist in the eyes of the soviet government, refusing to be a communist, preferring to be a ‘harmonist’. He had spent most of his life hiding, leading an underground life style and hand to mouth existence. Yet, he was indeed prolific, creating thousands of works and masterpieces. When once, somebody asked him how he lived, the artist replied, “I never lived, I existed. I only lived among those for whom I was painting and who were creating myths about me.”

Gene Shapiro Auctions will have over 15 paintings of Zverev next auction. These were sold during our spring auction.

Young & Furious.Young & FutuRious

By Maria Koby

In the USA David Burliuk is perhaps best known for his prolific career as the futuristic Ukrainian, Russian, post-impressionist painter and illustrator. Wild futuristic horses, bright village scenes, post-impressionism landscapes & allegorical paintings were some of his favorite themes. But David Burliuk was also a famous trailblazer of the futuristic movement in Russia. Together with Vladimir Mayakovsky Velimir Khlebnikov, Nikolai Burlyk, Vasily Kamensky and Alexander Kruchenykh, Benedict Livshic they wrote A Slap in the Face of Public Taste. This illustrated manifesto challenges the language & versatility of such prominent writers as Pushkin, Dostoevskiy and Tolstoy suggesting to throw them overboard from the modern boat, under the slogan, “Liberate the Words”.  The manifesto book is a vibrant volume of edgy innovative poems and prose inundated with off-beat metaphors, impressionism, music, and psychedelic themes. The volume is distanced from old literary traditions, breaking grammatical rules and coining new words and phrases. You might be surprised to realize that the book was written in 1912. Such were the rebel-innovators!

I find it interesting to see that futurism as the art movement didn’t die completely somewhere in the twenties and was retuning sporadically throughout the twentieth century. Futurism was also expressed through books, movies and fashion. Traces of Russian futurism embedded in Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange with its interesting unique Russian-influenced fictional language Nadsat. A lot of Stanley Kubrick’s movies, including the Clockwork Orange are also saturated with futuristic elements. Years later Alexander McQueen presented his unique edgy futuristic collections. In the present continuum futurism as the art movement might be taking a long break. But at least in the technology area, it won’t be long until many hot futuristic cars will head for production.


During the spring auction David Burliuk’s Bar by the Harbor was sold for $18,000.