Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Kejia Wu

Second Advisor

Judith Prowda


Russian avant-garde art is an intriguing area of study because it demonstrates the extent to which artistic freedom can change the course of culture through artists' unprecedented courage in complete rejection of the tradition. Although controversial at first, such radical transition away from objectivity towards prevailing conceptuality and eventually, abstraction is greatly appreciated today and serves as a true monument to Russian history in the world's most important art collections. Chapter one explore the history behind the origins of avant-garde and which factors have caused such radical art-movement to enter Russia and disrupt the long-established standards. Curiously, avant-garde in not limited to one specific artistic style but includes a combination of various movements. Chapter two provides an insight into what Russian avant-garde really constitutes and describes the various characteristics that can be used to identify the specific movement.

In the past ten years, the market for Russian art has undergone significant fluctuations. Following the 2008 boom when sales of Russian art have soared, recent years show a different scenario, with sales revenues slowly falling. According to the current Senior Director and formerly, the head of Russian Department at Sotheby's- Jo Vickery, "In general, at auctions Russian art is bought by the Russians." (1) Therefore, many of the market fluctuations are aligned with changes occurring within Russian economy as they have a great impact on the real incomes of potential collections of Russian art.

This paper looks into the various regional markets, specifically the US and UK to evaluate severity of these fluctuations and potential causes, These countries were selected because they represent some of the most active art markets with some of the biggest sales of art, they enjoy a large demand for Russian art and also, auction houses operating in these countries make their sales data publicly available. Therefore, it is easier to track transactions and identify fluctuations in the US and the UK due to these markets' high level of transparency and large scale of operations.

In contrast, Russian transactions are more difficult to track as auction houses rarely publish their sales data and it is not always reliable. To evaluate the art market in Russia, overall sales results published in various art market reports were used. The analyses of market for Russian avant-garde in this study is based on auction sales. Due to the high level of speculation and low transparency associated with private sales of art, these transactions were not considered. Since galleries are less inclined to publish realistic reports of their sales, inclusion of this data would have made analyses subjective and highly speculative. Therefore, in order to minimize bias the private sales data is omitted from the analyses.

Chapter 3 further describes the methodology used in this study in particular, the criteria selected and sources that were used for data acquisition. Chapters four through six explore the fluctuations in the avant-garde market in the US, UK, and Russia as well as a forecast for the future, based on data available today. The final chapter describes the art market in Russia and complications that curtail its successful development. With Russian avant-garde originating in Moscow, this chapter is important in understanding the factors which prevent a free trade of art between Russia and other countries due to underdeveloped infrastructure.

(1)Ilona Vinogradova, "Russian Art: What to bet on>," BBC RUssia, November 28, 2016,