NEW YORK - The Bekkerman Collection, on view at Sotheby’s Gallery through 16 November, offers a truly exciting opportunity to see some of the best examples of Russian art by blue-chip artists. The majority of the works on view have recently returned from exhibitions at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, further emphasizing the importance of the Bekkerman Collection in the Russian Art market, as well as the roles of the Bekkermans themselves – collectors, dealers and pioneers in the Russian art world. In addition, the sheer diversity and high quality of the works on view provide an exceptional microcosm of Russian Art history, from works by 19th-century masters to cutting-edge avant-garde artists, as well as examples by the underground non-conformist painters of the Soviet Union.
Robert Falk’s Still Life with Pink Pitcher, 1910. Masterpieces of Russian Art: The Bekkerman Collection.
This is an exciting time in general for the Russian market; Sotheby’s June 2014 Russian Paintings sales in London achieved the highest levels since 2008, with eight works selling for over £1 million. Russian art is the focus of landmark exhibitions around the world – the Tate’s Malevich retrospective in London drew enormous crowds. People who might not be familiar with Russian artists such as Vladimir Burliuk, Marie Vassilieff and Ivan Pougny might be surprised to see not only the quality of these works, but also the parallels to Western Art – the influences of Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso, amongst others, are woven into works that are also innately Russian at heart.
One of my favorite pieces in the collection is Robert Falk’s Still Life with Pink Pitcher from 1910. This piece is an incredible rediscovery, as Anatol Bekkerman purchased it initially as Falk’s Portrait of the Architect Zoia Kalatozova, which is on the reverse. Upon receiving the work he took off the backing board and revealed this early and rare still life. Experts subsequently confirmed that it is in fact a work by Falk from circa 1910, and the pink pitcher and tablecloth is featured in another work from this period, which is in the collection of the Serpukhov History and Art Museum.
Ivan Pougny’s Counter-Relief, 1920s. Masterpieces of Russian Art: The Bekkerman Collection.
Ivan Pougny’s Counter-Relief is another extraordinary piece, executed in the 1920s while the artist was living in Paris. During this period, Pougny produced maquettes of some of the reliefs he completed for the landmark Trolley V and 0.10 exhibitions held in St. Petersburg in 1915. The present maquette, as well as the sketch for the present work, dated 1916, and the relief itself, now in the collection of the Pompidou Center, were all exhibited in Zurich in 1960 at the posthumous Pougny retrospective at the Kunsthaus.