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Avant-garde artists from the Russian Empire and Soviet Union included some of the greatest names of their generation. Malevich, Chagall, Kandinsky, Exter, Popova, Rozanova, Rodchenko, Tatlin and countless others blazed a trail through Art History for an all-too brief period. With their creativity stunted by the advent of Socialist Realism in 1932, their work disappeared – only to re-emerge in the early 1970s when Greek collector, George Costakis, began to buy up swathes of paintings of the period. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a flood of newly-discovered works appeared on the Western and domestic markets of which the vast majority, up to 95%, had neither verifiable provenance nor exhibition history, their authenticity supported only by documents from now discredited Russian and Western art historians and erroneous certificates of chemical expertise.

This scandal reached a crescendo in January 2018 with an exhibition of 24 dubious works of the period at the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium. James Butterwick examines the background behind the mass faking of the Russian Avant-Garde, the history of these dubious paintings, universally rejected by museums and the art market, as well as the methods used to ‘create’ authenticity.

James Butterwick began collecting and selling Ukrainian and Russian Art in 1985 and has established himself as one of the world’s leading dealers and experts in the field. During the 1990s he lived in Moscow, becoming the only foreign member of the Russian Society of Private Collectors, forming collections, contributing to museum exhibitions and reading lectures on the history of Russian Art. In 2008 James became the only foreign member of International Confederation of Antique and Art Dealers of Russia and the CIS, and in 2013 joined the Society of London Art Dealers, the leading group of its kind.

Read more on his website:

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