Following the attempted assassination of former MI6 agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, the U.K. expelled a number of Russian diplomats and threatened a thorough crackdown on assets held by Russian oligarchs. Now, The Art Newspaper is reporting that auction specialists believe the cooling relations between the two countries will have adverse effects on the upcoming sales, as fewer Russians will be around to bid in the sales room, and others who choose not to consign their work to be sold in a hostile country. “We need to wait to see what happens, but almost certainly there will be a drop in Russian buying,” James Butterwick, a specialist dealer, told Georgina Adam. “Russians aren’t buying at the moment, partly for psychological reasons—and they aren’t selling either.”
Other specialists say that tensions have only slightly impacted consignments; Jo Vickery, a Russian painting expert at Sotheby’s, said she was able to source tonight’s sale of Russian art “at the height of the Salisbury affair.” Prime Minister Theresa May has yet to outline exactly how the rich art-collecting Russians living in London will be impacted by sanctions that have been proposed but not fully implemented. But at least one of the biggest Russian collectors has made a change in residence—Roman Abramovich recently withdrew an application to renew his British visa after encountering delays, and will apply for a visa in Israel.