Iconastas History

What a wonderful life as an antique dealer I have had.  From beginning in the 1960’s on a small table under stairs in Portobello market selling coins and stamps, onto the most famous junk shop in London – near Olympia on the North End Road.  I sold everything including the finest vintage handbags, jewellery and clothes, pictures (with an appaently undiscovered Rembrandt) and a Van Gogh etching, ending up in the early 80’s in the murky world of dealing with African diplomats who used to smuggle Icons in their luggage from Russia.

From there I went into the world of Faberge treasures, collected from all the auction rooms in Europe and the USA, fighting the Mayfair dealers for the best objects and then latterly back to my love of Icons with the wonderful, heady smell of incense, ancient oils and wood as a suitcase is opened.
Collecting was now in my blood, storerooms bulged with undiscovered paintings and objects, which now my wife and children will inherit and hopefully take the business into a new era.
It has been a fabulous roller coaster of life and inspiration with culture and art – my advice to all is to visit museums and auction rooms and learn to love your heritage;  discoveries are still made every day.

Upcoming Auctions

Timeline Auctions in May have just put their catalogue on-line,  with for the first time a collection of rather battered Icons with an East German provenance and Russian certificates. The Sothebys , Christies and Bonhams Russian auctions are now online with catalogues arriving this week. I will post an over-view of the sales this week.

Collecting Russian Art

IMG_1168With the downturn in the Russian Art market caused primarily by Sanctions, it will be interesting to look at the underpriced collectables from Russia.

As the”big-named” paintings and objects are now valued at about 50% less than pre 2010, what will be interesting to collect?

Icons were on a par with 19th century paintings in the 1970s and then slumped in price in the 1980s onwards. Now with a lack of supply there is a growing interest in collecting and prices are still fairly low. Faberge plain silver objects are out of fashion, so worth picking up at rock-bottom prices. The very interesting Pan-Slavic movement of the early 20th century coming out of Talashkino and Abramtsevo produced some wonderful decorative items ,mostly exported to Britain at the time. The careers of the artists living there blossomed after the Revolution, as many escaped to Paris to work with the ballet and opera. Very few items that were made were signed which has kept the prices very inexpensive. As Abramtsevo is now a “Museum” village and exhibitions are being held in Russia, this a collecting field well worth looking at.

We have noticed that the souvenirs made to celebrate the Soviet Space achievements have disappeared, so worth searching for.

Paintings from the 1940’s onwards will be promoted now by the London auction rooms, to make up for the loss of the 19th century market. The more decorative the better I expect.

Happy Hunting in 2016


As we anticipate 2016, it is time to think about the future of the Art Market and the Auction Market. The publicity surrounding the vast prices achieved for Impressionist and Contemporary art is countered by the negative profits earned by the auction rooms. The enormous expense of marketing these sales, the guarantees and nil commission offered to sellers and the worries about buyers from the Far East paying for their purchases will see a clearout of staff, departments closing and a return to the mixed sales of the past in the form of Christies South Kensington’s Interior sales.

The only way the European Art market can be recharged is if the sanctions imposed on Russia be lifted giving free movement to money throughout the regions. Now we are all fighting together to rid the Middle East of fanatics, we need to help those affected  by the lack of free trade. The US is completely unaffected by the European financial and refugee problems, but was the reason why sanctions were imposed.

The world of Art in 2016 will become a very different one, maybe back to the good old days of open transactions, sadly I doubt it.

The Russian Auctions (finished)

FIREWORKS OR DAMP SQUID ?…..Russian Week is over, with many days of viewing, parties to encourage potential bIMG_5033 banguyers and three days with four auctions. Approximately only £17 million spent including charges, with Sothebys taking the lion’s share and sadly Bonhams slumped to just over £400,000. As usual in the paintings sections,  new names took top spots and some decorative Icons raced ahead of their rather low estimates. Faberge items even with good provenance were unwanted and the over-priced Goncharova and Larionov catalogue was unloved.

Sadly it has become a habit for the Russian bidders to sit on their hands in the auction and wait to make low after-sale offers. Will there be Russian sales in 2016 ?

Russian Auction Week

Russian auction week starts today the 30th November with Christies all day, Sothebys on Tuesday and Bonhams and Macdougalls on Wednesday.

A smaller more carefully chosen selection of lots than usual with some rather low estimates to encourage interest.

Christies have some wonderful provenance Faberge items and Sothebys have the hoard of Goncharova and Larianov sketches and designs and some well priced Icons with silver rizas.

Russian Auctions

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The time has come round again for the Winter Russian Auction catalogues to crash through my letter box, although this year a much slimmer set has arrived with more carefully chosen pieces hoping to appeal to a Western audience with the Russian collectors and dealers trapped by sanctions.

Before all these start in London we have:

Dr Fischer in Germany, Wannenes in Italy and Jacksons in the USA.

Upcoming Auctions

malevichBusy weeks coming for Auctions with a Russian Art interest, including on the 5th., the Warner Dailey Collection at Greenslade Taylor Hunt , The Alfred Taubman Collection at Sothebys New York, the vast sale at Hargesheimer and Gunther in Germany, followed by Dr Fischer  and some very special items of jewellery at Bolin in Stockholm…Happy hunting !!

The Malevich at Sothebys New York on the 5th November