The world's top auction houses are cancelling their Russian art sales in London

The world's top auction houses are cancelling their Russian art sales in London
A woman stands by the painting "The Hunter" by Dmitri Stelletsky during a preview of Sotheby's Russian Pictures Art Sale in London, November 2, 2016.NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images
  • Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams have cancelled their "Russian Art Week" in June.
  • The sales typically attract wealthy Russian buyers.

Some of the world's top art auction houses have announced they will not sell Russian art in London, in compliance with Western sanctions, Reuters reported.

Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams typically hold a "Russian Art Week" in June and November, but the three have decided to cancel their June sales where wealthy Russians are often buyers, the agency reported.

Russia has been hit with a whirlwind of sanctions aimed at crippling its economy in response to its invasion of Ukraine. Russian oligarchs have been a major target of these sanctions, with many having had their assets frozen, their overseas properties raided, and their yachts seized.

The UK government announced further economic sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, targeting exports of luxury goods. The ban will likely affect works of art, among other items, the government said.

Christie's told Insider that it had a "responsibility" to cancel Russian art sales following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


"While the current sales market for Christie's in Russia as a whole is relatively small, we have a responsibility to respond to our clients' needs and to geopolitical events that are out of our control," a Christie's spokesperson told Insider. "With this in mind, we have decided to cancel our Russian art sales due to take place this June in London."

Sotheby's confirmed to Insider that it will not be holding its Russian sales in June in London.

Bonhams did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Analysts told Reuters that the number of Russian art buyers has shrunk since the 2008 recession, so the canceled sales won't massively affect the international art market.

Russian art accounted for less than 1% of turnover sales in 2021 at both Sotheby's and Christie's London auction houses, Sebastian Duthy, CEO of Art Market Research, told the newswire.


Another auction house, Phillips, told Reuters that while it does not have a specific Russian art sale, it has become more vigilant about not doing business that might contravene sanctions.

"We are on high alert all the time and right now we are of course being extra vigilant," Phillips told the agency.