“James Butterwick, the London collector and dealer – is one of the leading authorities on Russian Art in the West today.” ART.RU
James Butterwick was born in 1962 in Maidenhead, 30 miles west of London. His grandfather Cyril Butterwick was Head of Silver at Sotheby’s, and his godfather Peregrine Pollen President of Sotheby’s Parke Burnet in New York. After taking A-levels in History, French and History of Art at Eton College, James studied Fine Art at the University of East Anglia. In 1985 he made his first trip to Russia, the start of a love affair initially inspired by the ‘romantic lyricism of Turgenev’. In 1985/6 he studied Russian Language & Literature in Minsk and Pyatigorsk before graduating in Russian & Fine Art from Bristol University in 1987 and embarking on his art world career:
Joins Sotheby’s on graduate trainee scholarship
Acquires first Russian picture (a Bakst figure-drawing)
Joins Roy Miles’ Russian Art gallery on London’s Berkeley Square
Teams up with London dealer in Russian Art David Harrington
Becomes independent Russian art dealer, operating in London and Moscow
Moves permanently to Moscow (‘where the action was’) trading under his own name
Helps assemble extensive collection of Russian Art for Sun Group
Starts own collection with works by Vrubel, Serov, Volkov & Grigoriev
Elected only foreign member of the Russian Society of Private Collectors
Appointed Head of Russian Sales for London-based silver & jewellery firm Asprey;
with extensive travel to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan & Russia
Returns to Moscow and re-launches art dealership, acquiring works by Matyushin, Larionov, Goncharova, Bogomazov, Volkov, Rodchenko & others
Relocates his art business to London
Becomes only foreign member of International Confederation of Antique & Art Dealers of Russia & the CIS
Opens 120m2 purpose-built gallery in Hammersmith
Admitted to the prestigious Society of London Art Dealers
Opens exhibition of leading Impressionist paintings in Kazakhstan
Lectures at Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow
Becomes Art Advisor to Oracle Capital Group (sponsors of Houghton Revisited exhibition in conjunction with St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum)
First dealer specializing in early 20th Century Russian Art to take part in TEFAF Maastricht, the world’s leading art and antiques fair
Returns to TEFAF with a highly acclaimed show of Alexander Bogomazov (1880-1930)
James’ wife Natasha becomes owner of Russian Art+Culture website
March – ‘From Utopia to Tragedy’ Ukrainian Avant-Garde 1914-34 exhibition at TEFAF Maastricht
May – debut at TEFAF New York with ‘Bitter Harvest’ exhibition
March – ‘Boris Kosarev. The Kharkov Laboratory 1918-1929’ exhibition at TEFAF Maastricht.
December – joint exhibition at the Alon Zakaim Gallery, ‘Yakov Chernikhov – the Soviet Piranesi’
March – ‘Alexander Bogomazov – The Lost Futurist’, exhibition at TEFAF Maastricht
June – exhibits at ‘Masterpiece, London’ for the first time
July – moves to purpose-built gallery in Bruton Street, Mayfair
July – becomes an accredited lecturer at the Arts Society, London. Begins series of national lectures, “Dark side of the boom – the mass faking of the Russian Avant Garde” and “Alexander Bogomazov – the lost genius of the Ukraine”
February – wins landmark court case against the organisers of “Avangardie Russe dal Cubofuturismo al Suprematismo” exhibition in Mantua, Italy which he had described as a ‘disgrace’
March – ‘Yakov Chernikhov – the Soviet Piranesi’ exhibition at TEFAF, Maastricht. Sells Alexander Bogomazov’s 1916 ‘Self Portrait’ to the Kröller-Müller Museum
Sold to the following Institutions: Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Kroller Muller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands.
In his spare time James enjoys fishing and ‘bestriding the open spaces of Norfolk in search of peace and quiet’. A lifelong supporter of The Arsenal, he seldom misses a game at the Emirates – however hectic his schedule.
James Butterwick began collecting and selling 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.
In 2015 James became to first dealer in Russian Art to be invited to exhibit at TEFAF, Maastricht Art Fair, showing a collection of works by Russian and Ukrainian Avant Garde painters, including Alexander Bogomazov (1880-1930), seven of whose works he sold to the Kröller Müller Museum in the Netherlands. Following this, James exhibited at TEFAF, New York in 2017, and continues to exhibit at Maastricht.
A fluent Russian speaker, James lectures around the world on issues of authenticity that surround the Russian Avant Garde, and has spoken at the Tretyakov Gallery, the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow, New York and Cambridge Universities, the Kiev Centre of International Relations and, in November 2020 at the seminal exhibition ‘Original or Fake’, at the Ludwig Museum, Cologne in November 2020. A regular on radio and television, James had his own slot of Radio Matryoshka in London and Moscow and featured in the BBC programme ‘Fake or Fortune’.
James has written extensively on Russian Art, has published sixteen exhibition catalogues and has frequently donated to museum exhibitions. In February 2020 James won a landmark court case in Milan, Italy. Sued by organisers for having described an exhibition of 67 dubious paintings in Mantua as ‘an absolute disgrace’, James was utterly exonerated with the judge describing his comments as being based on, ‘proven recognised competence and experience.’
James acts as a source of museum-quality paintings with flawless provenance from both the Russian and European School, and has access to a wide range of leading experts, private collections and museums. He travels regularly to Russia and Ukraine. James’s office is in Mayfair, London, 30 yards from Bond Street, the hub of the art world.