LONDON, FEB. 26 -- The Soviet Union is to hold its first international art auction in July, the Soviet Ministry of Culture and auctioneers Sotheby's announced here today.

"This auction will enhance the exposure of the works by contemporary Soviet artists to a wide audience of art lovers around the world," Soviet Culture Minister Vasily Zakharov said.

Sotheby's Chairman Lord Gowrie told a news conference that the sale, which will include about 100 paintings, all by Soviet artists, will be held in Moscow on July 7.

"Very notable collectors have indicated that they will attend," Gowrie said, adding that the Soviet Union had promised to be cooperative in giving visas and issuing export licenses for the works.

He said the Center for International Trade, where the auction will be held, was equipped with the modern technology required to hold an international auction with telephones and telexes for buyers bidding from abroad.

"It will be the first international art auction to take place in the Soviet Union since the foundation of the Soviet state, and we hope it will not be the last," Culture Ministry official Sergei Popov told the news conference.

Gowrie said that in the past six to 10 years there had been a growing demand for Soviet art in the West, and an increasing number of collectors, museums and galleries had begun collecting contemporary Soviet art.

"But it is only in the last few years with the advent of glasnost and perestroika that artists of all tendencies and styles have had greater opportunities to exhibit and export their works openly," he added, referring to Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of openness and restructuring.

More than 20 artists, chosen by Sotheby's, will be represented, including Iliya Kebakov, Ivan Tschuikov and Vadim Zakharov, who are already well known in the West.

A catalogue of the works, which will be shown first in New York, London, Paris and Zurich, is due to be published at the end of May.

Gowrie said prices, which would have to be paid in pounds sterling, would range from $3,500 to $35,000. The sale was expected to raise $880,000.

He said he expected that buyers would include Soviet institutions, thanks to relaxed regulations, due to be eased further in June, which allow Russians to hold foreign currency.

"The Russian artists will get the proceeds of the sale, except for the normal commission," Popov said. The buyer's premium is normally 10 percent. The vendors are mainly the artists themselves, although some paintings will be sold by private Soviet collectors.