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Why Invest in Russian Art?

Russian art belongs to the common school of Western art, but has often existed and developed on its own, for obvious geographical, historical and political reasons. For the first seven hundred years, from the adoption of Christianity in 988 to the late seventeenth century, Russian art was mostly religious and the main customer was the Russian Orthodox Church.

After Peter the Great ascended the throne in 1682, he introduced secular art. For the next two centuries, Russia caught up with the West and was fully integrated into the global art process. But the 1917 revolution led to another period of isolation for much of the twentieth century. This continued until the fall of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A decade later, as a result of high energy prices and new personal wealth, Russian collectors and businessmen began spending large sums of money on art. The prices for Russian art surged upwards – often at incredible rates. This stimulated the appearance of first-class works at auctions, leading to an international boom in Russian art prices.

Despite the record sums paid in recent years, there is still room for growth. The Russian art market has only emerged over the last two decades and, as such, is relatively young. Russian art remains underappreciated and undervalued compared to European and American art. Despite a growing number of exhibitions, it is still not well known outside Russia.

Most of the Russian art sold at auctions is bought by Russians or citizens of other former Soviet republics. But the rising prices have attracted the interest of Western investors. Previously, only a fraction of Russia’s wealthiest billionaires collected art. This number is also growing and new buyers are joining the market every year.

Russian art is now highly prized not only by collectors, but also by private investors. Leading Russian investment-banking and asset-management firms now include art in their portfolios for wealthy clients. All this guarantees a stable and buoyant market for Russian art, which now ranks among the top ten performers on the international market.

Now that I have heard the case for investing in Russian art, how much money can I make?

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