Auction houses cancel Russian art sales in London
Top auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Bonhams have all called off their sales of Russian art, slated to take place in London in June, as Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine grinds on and the crisis in that country deepens.
The lucrative sales are typically popular with Russian collectors, and a number of the wealthiest, including Putin allies Petr Aven, who recently departed the board of London’s Royal Academy, and Roman Abramovich, cofounder of Moscow’s Garage Museum, are now on a continually lengthening sanctions list. All three auction houses confirmed that they would hew closely to regulations forbidding dealings with sanctioned individuals or organizations, and that they will intensify scrutiny surrounding them.
Sotheby’s was the first to cancel its sale, noting on March 15 that it was “actively supporting those impacted by the tragic events unfolding in the region through corporate and employee fundraising.”
Christie’s followed suit the same day, saying it had a “responsibility to respond to our clients’ needs and to geopolitical events that are out of our control.”
Bonhams on March 16 scrubbed mention of its Russian art sale from its website. Sotheby’s has additionally shuttered its Moscow outpost.
In the meantime, Phillips, which has been under intense pressure because its owners are Russian, does not hold any sales dedicated to Russian art. In March, it donated the net proceeds of its £5.8 million ($7.7 million) 20th-century and contemporary art auction in London to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society.
“Individuals or institutions targeted by sanctions are prevented from doing business directly or indirectly through our salerooms,” said a Phillips spokesperson. “We are of course being extra vigilant at this time.”
Other auction houses, such as the Monaco-based Hermitage Art Sales, are carrying out sales of Russian art and Soviet memorabilia.