RABIN Oscar Yakovlevich (1928–2018) The Savior of the Transfiguration Cathedral in Pereslavl-Zalessky. 1965. Canvas, oil, gold leaf. 110 × 90

The appearance of such work in the Russian auction market is not news, but an event! An oil by Rabin, more than a meter in size, created in 1965, and moreover, from the exhibition at London Grosvenor Gallery. For connoisseurs of Rabin's art these three facts are eloquent confirmation of the highest level of the presented work. The exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery is Rabin's first foreign solo exhibition. The one that in fact became the occasion for his harassment in the USSR. The author of this demarche was the London art dealer Eric Estorick, who would come to the USSR many times in the early 1960s and somehow managed to get the right to export the works of unofficial artists. Rabin's exhibition was among the first to introduce nonconformist art to the West. A little earlier, the Mott Gallery in Paris held an exhibition of Zverev. It was a breath of fresh air against the background of the stifling propaganda of socialist realism. The Western press has admired Rabin's exhibition. His freedom of ideas and critical view of Soviet life gave him a reason to treat it as anti-Soviet. Oskar Rabin himself was not allowed to answer the journalists' questions. Naturally, he could not attend the vernissage in London. Instead, in Moscow, he arranged an impromptu second opening. The artist printed black and white photos of paintings sold to Estorick, gathered guests and together they drank wine on this occasion. Retribution soon followed. The CPSU Central Committee received a letter signed by Andropov about the commercial success of merchant Estorick's exhibition. It reported that Rabin's paintings were being sold in London for £900 (75 ordinary Soviet salaries). The newspapers followed with feuilletons and insulting articles about the artist. And Oscar Rabin effectively emerged as the main figure of the intellectual resistance. The whole story, with quotations from official documents, is reproduced in detail in the articles by Alexander Kronik and Ruth Edison in their new book “Visa to Another World. A Biography of Oscar Rabin”, published in 2021.

The canvas “The Savior of the Transfiguration” presented at our auction is a manifesto painting. It illustrates the conflict of spiritual and everyday life. The temple symbolizes the strength of faith, the strength of the foundations. But above it a cloud of temptation emerges, in which there is electric light as a symbol of progress, as well as vodka and herring as attributes of degradation and self-destruction. The painting has impeccable provenance. After Eric Estorick it came into the collection of Anatoly Bekkerman and was exhibited at Novy Manege four years ago. It has been published several times. Publications and provenance are recorded in the expert report of Valery Silaev. “The Savior of the Transfiguration” is the most significant work of Rabin out of all appearing on the Russian auction market over the past five years.

SOOSTER Ülo (1924–1970) Junipers. 1959. Cardboard, oil, glue, sand. 33.5 × 47

Once again, an event! “Junipers” by Ülo Sooster dated 1959 is the most valuable theme and the most valuable period in the work of one of the main artists of the so-called Sretensky Boulevard group, which included Kabakov, Yankilevsky, Pivovarov and others. Ülo Sooster was respected not only as an outstanding artist, but also as a man who had seen life. A student at the University of Tartu who dared to hope for a foreign internship, he was repressed in 1949 under the 58th anti-Soviet article. He spent six years in Karlag in Kazakhstan. He was released in 1956 by decree of Khrushchev. Could he have imagined then that in 1962 in the Manege he would personally meet Khrushchev under the most unexpected circumstances? When an enraged party worker used obscenities against the author of the lunar landscape and threatened to send him to the camps instead of the Moon. A friend of the artist, Boris Zhutovsky, would later say that Khrushchev regretted that action after his resignation. But Ülo Sooster would never know that. After the Manege 1962, Ülo made his living by taking orders from publishing houses. Often under a pseudonym, so as not to annoy with his last name. He illustrated science fiction and popular science articles —  that is, he worked in areas where no one could point out in terms of verisimilitude. The artist worked hard. As if he felt that fate had given him a short life (Ülo died at 46). Those who knew him noted that he was always drawing something in a notebook. His favorite pictorial themes were the symbolized junipers, a reminder of his homeland on the island of Hiiumaa in Estonia, and the eggs as a symbol of life. Today, such themes are most valued by collectors, and the prices of paintings of this level range around $ 50,000–60,000. At the same time they are extremely rare. Our 1959 “Junipers” are of impeccable provenance, come from the collection of the artist's heir, and have been exhibited and published many times.




ZVEREV Anatoly Timofeevich (1931–1986) Two drawings. Flower. Landscape. Sokolniki. 1959. Paper, charcoal, tempera. 60 × 40 (each)

Experts consider 1959 to be the apogee of Zverev's work. Most of the drawings of this period were concentrated in the collection of George Costakis, a collector and patron of the artist. Later they passed into the collection of his heirs. In particular, this pair of tempera paintings comes from the collection of Costakis' granddaughter Elena Dymova-Costakis. And on the back of each drawing there is a confirming inscription.

Why Zverev of the 1950s is particularly highly valued? The question is debatable. One of the answers — the artist at this time does not leave the search, boldly experimenting. He does not yet have the stereotypical themes that customers expect from him. He is free. No public dictate yet. Zverev works for himself, for the soul. And he produces truly inspired works.

What else are these drawings interesting? The flower — in principle, a rare theme in the works of the artist. It would seem that this is a pure symbol of beauty — but no, the artist turned to it rarely. But Sokolniki — yes. For Zverev, this park was his home. There he played checkers. There he played soccer. There he hid from aggressive society. And, of course, he worked there with inspiration.

The authenticity of the drawings is confirmed by the conclusions of Valery Silaev.

YAKOVLEV Vladimir Igorevich (1934–1998) Cat with a bird. 1974. Paper on hardboard, gouache. 59.5 × 81

“Cat with a bird” is Yakovlev's reinterpretation of Picasso's 1939 subject “Wounded Bird and Cat”. The artist could see it on slides, in magazines or at an exhibition in the Pushkin Museum, where Picasso's paintings were brought in the late 1950s. But Vladimir Yakovlev created a new reading, firmly in tune with his complex, unsettled life. Like lonely flowers, the bird is a symbol of helplessness, loneliness and defenselessness. A kind of alter ego of Yakovlev himself, who has seen a lot of grief in life. These are mental hospitals, blindness, unsettled life. But in the end, Yakovlev, unlike the bird, managed to escape from the teeth of aggressive society. Let not physically (the artist ended his life in a mental institution), but intellectually. Today Yakovlev is a recognized “artist of freedom”. His exhibitions gather thousands of viewers, and his works are highly valued by collectors. “Cat with a bird” is a rare and highly sought-after subject. For collectors, the appearance of a work of this class is an event.


KAZARIN Viktor Semyonovich (1948–2021) Prokhor under the bouquet. 1990. Oil on canvas. 90 × 95

The work “Prokhor under the bouquet” is very personal, warm and emotional. Prokhor was the nickname of Viktor Semyonovich Kazarin's beloved dog. The kind dog was a mixture of a lap dog and Lhasa Apso.

Victor Kazarin was a brilliant representative of Russian neo-expressionism, the new wave of unofficial post-war art. He was the leader of the “21” group at the Gorkom (city committee) of Graphic Artists on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street. A rebel, sharp-tongued Viktor Kazarin was repeatedly expelled from the Gorkom, made a lot of enemies and envious. But history does not check the behavior marks of artists. Only outstanding paintings, creative finds and artistic achievements remain in eternity. And behind Kazarin's back — a dozen city committee exhibitions, organization of the “Molot” (“Hammer”) group and unprecedented for those times solo exhibition at the Manege-1991. Victor Semyonovich has left a rich creative legacy. He worked furiously until his last days. And until his last days he had creative explosions. But especially Kazarin of the 1980–1990-ies causes increased interest of collectors today.

KISLITSYN Igor Vasilievich (1948) Green cloud. 1998. Oil on canvas. 89 × 110

Igor Kislitsyn is an expressionist, a sixties artist, friend and author of memoirs about Anatoly Zverev. Before the organization of the Gorkom (city committee) of Graphic Artists on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street, he exhibited at apartment exhibitions and later became a regular at Gorkom exhibitions. Since the late 1970s, without leaving painting, Kislitsyn restored icons and took part in large-scale church restoration projects. And around this time his painting includes iconographic subjects, the “alchemy” of the Middle Ages, the poetry of spirituality. In recent years, his work has attracted increased interest from new collectors. “Green cloud” is a painting over a meter in size, of museum significance, a rarity. It has previously participated in gallery exhibitions.

MAYOROV Igor Evgenievich (1946–1991) Lady with a glass. From the series “Night Butterflies”. 1980s. Paper, gouache, whitewash. 42 × 29.5

Igor Mayorov was a Leningrad artist who passed away early, one of the hapless legends of the city on the Neva. He was imprisoned, led a carefree dissipated life. Many considered him the standard of dissoluteness. Mayorov, in particular, deliberately put the signature AZ on his works. Despite the fact that he was friends with Zverev and did not hide his recklessness from him. The twists and turns of the artist's fate are interestingly described in a series of articles by Maria Moskvichyova, a correspondent of Moskovsky Komsomolets. In particular, one of the articles published this very work from the cycle “Night Butterflies”. According to legend, Zverev showed up at night at the workshop of the St. Petersburg chaser Artemiev (Mayorov's teacher) with this nameless lady. And this drawing, made under the impression of the liberated guest, was kept for a long time by the artist's friend Robert Gabitov.