Auctioneer Gene Shapiro presents lecture on ‘Russian Renaissance’

Gene Shapiro, Russian art expert and founder of Gene Shapiro Auctions.

Gene Shapiro, Russian art expert and founder of Gene Shapiro Auctions.

NEW YORK – Gene Shapiro, Russian art expert and founder of Gene Shapiro Auctions, opened a six-part lecture series for appraisers at the Salmagundi Club on Oct. 3 with a presentation on Russian art. Titled “A Russian Renaissance,” Shapiro’s seminar informed members of the American Appraisers Association about an important category of art that is little known in the West.

As the founder of America’s only independent auction house specializing in Russian art, Gene Shapiro is uniquely qualified to speak on the subject, which has had a global market only since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

As Shapiro stated, “There is generally a lack of knowledge in the West about Russian art, particularly among professionals.”

The seminar came just weeks before the Russian art sale at Gene Shapiro Auctions on Nov. 19. For the appraisers in the audience it was an opportunity to absorb the history and cultural importance of Russian art.

Shapiro handled the subject comprehensively, offering a slide show of significant Russian works that are as well known to the Slavic peoples as the works of Da Vinci, Monet and Rockwell are to Westerners. Among the notable Russian artists known to every school child, businessman and intellectual are names such as Shishkin, Vasnetsov, Repin and Aivazovski. In fact, Shishkin’s Morning in a Pine Forest is so beloved that it appears in everything from textbooks to candy wrappers.

Paralleling the importance of secular art are the Russian icons that gained a strong following among foreigners as early as the 19th century. Statements of faith, the icons date to the advent of Christianity in Russia, circa the 10th century.

Moving on to Russian Classical painting, Shapiro cited the vision of Peter the Great, known as the king who opened a “Window on the West.” During his reign, Western art and architecture had a profound impact on Russian art and architecture.

From the Russian Academy to modernism, realism and folkorism, Russian art evolved on much the same trajectory as Western art, with the exception of Soviet social realism. The Russian émigrés—Chagall, Malevich, Kandinsky, Rodchenko, and Burliuk among them—heavily influenced advancements in Western art.

A strong post-Soviet economy and the freedom to rediscover Russian culture and heritage has had its effect on a collecting category that, merely 40 years ago, was as closeted as Russia.

Shapiro was born in St. Petersburg and raised in the United States. He is a licensed and bonded auctioneer in New York City. Gene Shapiro Auctions is located at 506 E. 74th St., New York, NY 10021.

Gene Shapiro Auctions will hold its next international sale of Russian art, European and American art and works of art on Nov. 19. For more information on Shapiro and Gene Shapiro auctions, please visit Shapiro can be reached at

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