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Million dollar Russian art

Published time: November 13, 2010 10:37
Edited time: November 13, 2010 17:15
The Kuli-Kuta Dance by Alexaner Yakovlev

The Kuli-Kuta Dance by Alexaner Yakovlev

While the demand for Russian art remains stable, one of the world's oldest auction houses, Sotheby's is looking forward to its autumn session with high expectations.

­One of the top lots is likely to be a masterpiece by modernist Russian artist Alexander Yakovlev, inspired by his expedition across the African continent in the mid 1920s.

The Kuli-Kuta Dance, estimated at over US$ 1.5 million, features a dramatic and vivacious image of a West African high priestess, dancing in honor of Sango, the great god of thunder and lightning.

From October 1924 to June 1925, Yakovlev was the official artist of the legendary Citroën expedition – Croisière Noire – which made its way from Algeria to Madagascar on eight half-track vehicles.

Art historians believe that the Black Cruise had a strong influence of African Primitivism on masters of Western Art, including Picasso and Braque.

Yakovlev brought back almost 400 canvases and drawings from the voyage.

It is not the first time a Yakovlev painting has been featured in Sotheby's sales. In summer this year, his ironic chef d'oeuvre Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo went under the hammer for a price almost triple its top estimate, becoming the most expensive lot of the week-long Russian art sale.

Among other lots generating the biggest buzz at Sotheby's autumn sale – with its top estimate of almost one million dollars – is The Eve of the Celebration, Santa Maria Della Salute, Venice by Aleksey Bogoliubov who described himself as a “sailor-artist” due to his initial education at the Sea Cadet Corps, as well as he Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg.

A friend of the then Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich, back in 1867, Bogoliubov traveled to Copenhagen with the future Russian Emperor Alexander III.

According to a contemporary report mentioned by Sotheby's, when Bogoliubov was in Denmark he put together 'an album of plein-air works for the Tsesarevich. One of the key works was a “view of the Grand Canal at dusk with a procession of gondolas heading towards the church” which became known as On The Eve Of The Celebration, Santa Maria Della Salute, Venice.