Royal Academy

Russian Revolution 1917 – 2017

The Royal Academy exhibition is financed by the Russian Oligarchs with inspiration from Saatchi that it is a cheap venue for promoting ones collections.

Some wonderful paintings from this incredible era from major Russian museums and as always, the private collectors’ objects fitted in.

Macdougalls (St. Charles Street, St. James) are having their own selling exhibition in March  with wonderful Revolutionary Art on show.

As London celebrates this life-changing centenary,  Iconastas will be displaying wonderful revolutionary posters.

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.


The worst year of my life, thank God, is over finally.   It all started with the Art London Fair opening on Brexit day – with not a person walking in.   Then a couple of weeks later, the doctors discovered a brain tumour and failed to act promptly, leaving me waiting three weeks for a failed operation.   The rest of 2016 was spent being treated with chemo and Radiotherapy – with all its ups and downs.
The negative response to the questions about my survival time varied from 2 months to 6 months – so not the happiest time for my family.
It is now 2017 and I am still here.   I would like to thank everyone for their kindness, their thoughts, their cards and even their treatments. The shop is buzzing along well with help from John and the fantastic Olya looking after all of our Russian clients so well.

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Impressionist Auctions

Very few pieces “took-off” in the weeks sales, but pieces were selling even if some of the owners took big hits. The biggest being a Picasso taking a loss of about £9 million and a Max Ernst losing about £4 million for the owner. The best pieces are those new to the market and visually exciting, not the bad pictures from well-known artists…The Contemporary Auctions are coming up next, looking a bit like one of those dealers clearance sales at Phillips West 2.

The Romanovs

IMG_1372The Romanov season is upon us beaming out of our television screens in glorious high resolution with Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” over six weeks and “The Romanovs” over three weeks. The beauty of St Petersburg is shown as never before, with fabulous costumes filling the screen and just published “The Romanovs” a history by Simon Sebag-Montifiore. The mystery, cruelty and intrigue that is Russia comes alive.

Field Marshall Kutuzov (1745-1813)

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

New Year’s Eve

Once in the far and distant past , I would don my glad rags and race out  of the door to find a party in which to welcome in the New Year. As I got older and found that I was allergic to alcohol, the temptation to party lessened as friends and wives drunken behaviour made the evening tedious with the slurred “singing” of “Auld Lang Syne” just a time of  reflection of the nightmare of the coming year.

Now that I am “old-ish” I can sit here in peace with a cup of tea and reflect on how lucky I am to have a great wife , five children, three grandchildren, two sons-in-law and a ginger girl cat. I have not retired, still run a business which gives me pleasure every day, still have some “white” hair on my head and more than ever, dark hair on my body.

As the midnight hour draws closer I can choose to go to bed or watch the fireworks on the television and know that when I awake in 2016 I have a life of opportunities waiting for me.

Happy New Year


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.