Auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams canceled sales of Russian art in London in June, as part of the art market’s response to Western sanctions against Russia as punishment for the invasion of Ukraine.
The 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 stopped selling Russian art in London in June. “We are absolutely strict in following the current sanctions and are closely monitoring any updates to the lists,” the statement said.
Christie’s also said it canceled sales of Russian art in June, citing factors such as the uncertainty of the war and complex logistical and legal requirements related to sanctions.
“While the current sales market for Christie’s in Russia as a whole is relatively small, we have a responsibility to respond to our customers’ needs and geopolitical events beyond our control,” Christie’s said in a statement. The auction house added that it was conducting “enhanced due diligence” when dealing with politically exposed people and those with connections to jurisdictions where sanctions had been imposed.
Bonhams gave no reason for his decision.
Western countries have taken unprecedented steps to cut ties with Russia since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, including freezing bank accounts and imposing sanctions on its billionaires.
Britain on Tuesday imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities as it tried to catch up with the EU and the US in attacking people accused of supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite these measures, some dealers and advisers told Reuters it was unlikely that the international art market as a whole would take a hit because the number of Russian buyers had fallen since the 2008 financial crash and they accounted for a small portion of the market.
Sales of Russian artworks totaled £37.7 million in Sotheby’s and Christie’s London sales spaces in 2021, less than 1% of sales, according to Sebastian Duthy, the CEO of Art Market Research. Sotheby’s and Christie’s did not immediately confirm the figure.
But while the auction houses have little financial impact, things have been made more difficult for collectors of Russian art — as well as those who work with them on deals — because of fears of accidentally transacting with Russians who may be on sanctions lists, art market advisers say. .
“It makes it harder for the Russians and it also makes it harder for the buyers, because right now you don’t want to get caught buying something that comes from a Russian,” said Barbara Guggenheim, a partner at the U.S. established company. art consultancy Guggenheim, Asher, Associates.
New York art attorney Thomas Danziger said he advised clients to be wary of making deals with Russians who could still end up on the sanctions list. “We advised a client who was considering a loan to a Russian museum to move away from the table,” he said.
Danziger said he feared the artwork would get stuck there: “As Western sanctions multiply, we thought there was a real risk that the client’s artwork would make a one-way trip to Russia and end up being hit by the government there.” would be expropriated.”
Reuters has not identified any instances where that has happened.