A 19th century painting of St. Petersburg that Mikhail Baryshnikov purchased decades ago, and depicting the Russian city he loved, was auctioned Tuesday for $746,500 to benefit the famous dancer's New York City performing arts center.
The proceeds from the Sotheby's sale will go toward new programming at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.
A German private collector placed the winning bid by telephone for "View of St. Petersburg" by Petr Petrovich Vereshchagin. The pre-sale estimate for the cityscape was $300,000 to $500,000.
Baryshnikov recently donated the painting to the center's foundation so it could sell it to raise money to develop new programming from theater directors, musicians and choreographers.
Baryshnikov serves as artistic director of the center that he founded in 2005 as a "creative laboratory" and performance space for multidisciplinary artists from around the world. It houses four studios, a studio theater and the 232-seat Jerome Robbins Theater in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, offering performances in chamber music, dance, theater and visual arts and film screenings.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Baryshnikov said he purchased the painting at a Helsinki gallery around 1978. While it held sentimental value because he "spent the best of my youth" in St. Petersburg, he felt the money from the sale could be used to produce new art at his center.
"That's much more important than a look back and being nostalgic about the past," he said.
Baryshnikov said his nonprofit arts center did not yet have an endowment and relied on donations from individual and corporations.
He has already donated hundreds of works from his extensive 19th- and 20th-century art collection to the foundation but said the Vereshchagin work was the first to be sold to benefit the organization.
Eventually, Baryshnikov said he planned to donate all his artworks to the foundation.
Baryshnikov called Vereshchagin's work "extraordinarily detailed and beautifully lit," offering a "very recognizable" panoramic view of St. Petersburg. He couldn't recall how much he had paid for it at the time.
"I totally fell in love with it and borrowed some money to buy it," the 63-year-old artist said. "It was significant in my budget at that time, but I was so glad I bought it."