The art world’s love affair with Russian money continues. After Roman Abramovich snapped up works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, he then shipped half of London’s arterati to the opening of his girlfriend Dasha Zhukova’s CCC Garage in Moscow. Now auction house Phillips de Pury & Co have been bought by Russian retail giant, the Mercury Group, who also hosted Gagosian’s first foray into the lucrative emerging market with a 2007 showcase at their Luxury Village mall. Although Simon de Pury will remain chairman and no doubt auctioneer, the obvious next step will be to try and set up shop in Russia and shore up some of the lucrative business opportunities there.
This seems to be part of a concerted masterplan to muscle in on traditional Sothebys and Christie’s territories, not least back in London where Phillips de Pury have done a sponsorship deal with the new Saatchi Gallery to allow free entrance for the public when it opens this week. Not only does the auction house get a dedicated gallery in the Saatchi Gallery, but there’s also a tacit agreement that the collector will sell through Phillips in the future (although how the relationship will weather this news remains to be seen). What next for the great Russian takeover? White Cubeski, Tate Petersburg or MoscoMA?