British antiques houses on lookout for Russian billionaires

The UK’s top antique dealers have come to Moscow to woo clients in the city that was recently dubbed “the capital of the billionaires”.

The Russian residence of the UK ambassador is playing host to some of the world’s finest antiques. This one-day exhibition is not open to the general public. Its visitors are the crème de la crème of Russia’s richest, expecting to pick up something special to satisfy their lust for the latest cultural fancies.

The main motive behind the exhibition is to attract Russian investors into the antiques market.

Taking into account the mentality of Russian oligarchs, the undertaking is destined to succeed. Russian billionaires’ love for all that glitters is known all over the world. Their eagerness for expensive things has even led to a certain degree of mockery.

As high-end art has become the symbol of oligarch opulence, the market’s potential has sparked an interest from leading British firms.

“Since the 1990s, huge fortunes have been made in Russia,” managing director of Art Market Research, Robin Duthy told RT. “Now there are people seeking to express their taste, their judgment, their status by buying beautiful things to furnish their homes with. We’ve already see Russians buying in London.”

British companies were quick to understand that hefty price tags do not put off Russia’s wealthy. What the nouveau riche really want are new collectables to splash out on – often unavailable in Russia.

A 12-strong team of experts have made the journey, which has been organized by Lapada, a UK-based association of antique dealers. The project, supported by the British government, was rather ominously dubbed “Mission to Moscow”.

“Russia is a potentially expansive market,” Adam Kaye, director of Butchoff Antiques, told RT. “Russians like quality and they want to mix it with the UK. So we’ve come over here to meet the clients who don’t know us and to show them what we sell.”

The world art market has been booming over the past 20 years. Combined, the sale of such collectables is now worth an estimated $70 billion per year.

It is also an industry that is expected to grow, one driven by relatively new markets, notably in Russia and China. Market specialists see it as a durable investment. They note that even as the worst of the financial crisis took hold, sales records for high-end furniture keep being shattered.

Behind many such expensive purchases were so-called “passion investments” – buyers with enough disposable income to make impulse buys in their millions. It is a type of client Russia has plenty of.

“I’m forecasting that the high end of the markets will be very strong for the next five or ten years,” managing director of Art Market Research, Robin Duthy added.

Leave a comment