Russians Turning To Art Market As Recession Looms

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Sculpture in a gallery in Moscow i

A sculpture in the home of Moscow gallery owner Marat Guelman. Gregory Feifer/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Gregory Feifer/NPR
Sculpture in a gallery in Moscow

The Russian art market is characterized chiefly by its potential, says Marat Guelman, who owns a gallery in Moscow.

Gregory Feifer/NPR

As the global financial crisis pushes the world toward recession, one sector appears to have been unharmed so far: the international art market. One reason may be the appearance of new buyers from countries like Russia, which is seeing a boom in contemporary art.

Lehman Brothers may have filed for bankruptcy last month, but when British artist Damien Hirst held a Sotheby's auction the same day, he astounded the art world by raising almost $100 million. A third of the buyers — picking up items such as pickled animals and a diamond-encrusted filing cabinet — were believed to be from the former Soviet Union.

Sotheby's director in Moscow, Mikhail Kamenskii, says wealthy Russians used to shelling out for expensive cars and houses are now plunging into the art market.

"It's coming back as a new fashion, as a new tradition to buy luxury goods," Kamenskii says.



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