Russian Art Prices May Halve amid Coronavirus Crisis, Experts Say

All spring art auctions in Russia have been postponed or moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, with prices of Russian artworks headed for a 50% drop amid an overall sales plunge, experts told Izvestia.

The art industry was one of the first to be hit by the pandemic as museums and art galleries across the world had been shut down and auctions had been postponed or canceled even before the lockdown restrictions took effect.

“The art auction business is seasonal, our major auctions take place in the spring and fall. This year, all spring auctions had to be postponed to June and July or moved online because of the pandemic,” Sotheby’s Moscow Managing Director Irina Stepanova said. “We offer more affordable items online,” she added.

While art prices haven’t dropped much yet, experts expect the 2014 collapse to recur. “The art market — like the entire economy — is going through a shock. The current situation is reminiscent of the crisis six years ago. Auction sales plunged by 39% back then,” said Ksenia Podoinitsyna, the founder of the InArt rating agency.

According to Igor Markin, an art collector and the founder of the Art4 museum, auction prices for Russian art pieces will halve both domestically and overseas.

However, experts are cautiously optimistic about the industry’s prospects. They say the market will revive rather quickly once the economic situation stabilizes. But it is hard to make long-term forecasts at the moment since no one knows how long the pandemic and its related restrictions will last. Though history has seen many crises, the world is facing a situation of this magnitude for the first time.

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