12. prosince 2023
The antiques market has its own foibles, but the same trends apply to it as with dealing in art, especially when it comes to the emphasis on quality and name and the price difference between exceptional items and those that are merely average. However, there are not many top pieces, and few buyers on the Czech market are capable of appreciating quality. Whereas some auction houses are considering whether to maintain this segment at all, dealers in brick-and-mortar stores continue to focus on their regular customers and foreign clientele.
For the most part, the addressed antiques dealers evaluate last year in terms of sales as being average to slightly above-average. Similarly to previous years, there was no significant trend; there were just minor changes in clientele composition and sales practice. Last year, the main criteria for a successful sale were still the quality of the offered items and their being unusual and/or rare; whether they were from the first half of the 20th century or items of historic Bohemian glass or china was irrelevant. “More than in the past, customers require that the items need to be in perfect condition and restored and that their genuineness is guaranteed by experts. The regular clientele especially are beginning to consider this service a matter of course as do foreign buyers who purposefully target rare items for client-collectors,” says Michal Jankovský, the owner of the antiques store that bears his name.
Actually, it was possible to trace one new trend last year: coins. They are offered at specialised auctions and specialised stores focus on them, but gold and silver memorials as well as common coins used for payment in the second half of the 19th century and in the First Republic are starting to appear regularly in some brick-and-mortar stores. According to Simona Šustková, co-owner of Alma Antique, they sell without a problem in a matter of days. In addition to investors, a new generation of younger collectors is beginning to appear in this field. Apparently, it is not only attractive that each coin’s collecting value can be found in a catalogue, on which its price is then based, but that thanks to the date on the particular coin one can learn something about the events of the era in which it was minted. “It is similar to the painting market, where Old Masters prices lag behind modernism. Whereas new-era coins sell excellently, Antiquity – which used to form the foundation of numismatic collections – is being collected less and less,” adds Antique Dealers Association president Jan Neumann.
Jewellery sold well, as usual. This was not exclusively diamond jewellery that can be worn and represents an advantageous investment. According to Simona Šustková, last year even less well-off customers did more shopping, preferring smaller gold Art Nouveau jewellery. In this connection, Martin Cinolter, the owner of Antiques Cinolter, points out Marie Křivánková’s Art Nouveau jewellery that is popular with and appreciated by collectors and laymen alike for its original and timeless design. Quality silver, especially beautifully crafted candlesticks and boxes, as well as mantel and table clocks by interesting designers from the first half of the 20th century, also traditionally sell well.
Similarly to previous years, the furniture segment stagnated, and according to dealers it has never been at such a low level as today: beautifully restored Art Nouveau and Art Deco furniture can be obtained for prices in the thousands of korunas range. Some dealers see a shift in the interest of buyers, primarily younger ones, towards 1950s and 1960s furniture. A similar trend has been established for several years in Belgium and in France, where there are a host of stores which specialise in this type of furniture. Contemporary designer furniture is also trendy, as younger customers prefer comfort that antique seating usually cannot offer. “Armchairs by Jindřich Halabala are a design icon today. And there are a few more names one can say are in fashion,” says Tomáš Hejtmánek from Arthouse Hejtmánek.
Paintings traditionally play an auxiliary role in brick-and-mortar stores, with really high-quality items finding their way into them only exceptionally, as collectors and investors are more used to acquiring them at auction. “If a client wants a painting with a quality guarantee to adorn his living room because it is painted well, he will also have a look in a brick-and-mortar store,” says Simona Šustková, who adds: “The phenomenon of auctions, however, is unsurpassable for us in this regard.”
On the other hand, bronze sculptures by artists such as Filla, Gutfreund, Štursa and Horejc were systematically sought after in stores last year, primarily by foreign clientele. One of the most interesting pieces that appeared in this category outside of auction houses was a new, scaled-down casting of Gutfreund’s relief The Return of the Legions from the façade of the Legiobanka building in Prague. “It is a beautiful work. It is a source of pride for us that we discovered the original and until then missing plaster moulding from 1921, saved it from destruction, and then witnessed the expert analysis, restoration and casting,” says eAntik co-owner Michael Třeštík.
The local antiques market – similarly to the auctions of paintings – is now quite globalised, with the movement of goods going in both directions. “The significance of imports has been increasing. Top dealers have regular clients and look for pieces for them according to their wishes. And it doesn’t matter if they acquire it in Prague, Munich or Madrid,” says Jan Neumann. “Some things are cheaper abroad than here – one goes to England for historic weapons, to France for clocks, and to Switzerland for numismatic items,” he explains.
It also works the other way round. Foreign buyers represent an important section of clientele for the owners of brick-and-mortar stores and auction houses. The Ukrainian crisis and the decline of the rouble have resulted in an outflow of Russian customers, which, with regard to antiques sales, was reflected in decreased interest in porcelain figurines, including such famous brands as Rosenthal and Meissen. However, the Vienna-based company Goldscheider continued to do fairly well, even though it was true that only high-quality and rare items were sold.
In the summer and in the second half of the year, antique dealers also registered an increased influx of Chinese buyers. This was due to the first Chinese feature film to be shot in Prague and the Chinese investment forum in August. “It surprised me how well the Chinese customers were prepared for their purchases, how much purchasing power they had, and the feeling for quality Czech glass, porcelain and jewellery they had. In addition, there was a significant proportion of young people among the buyers, which is a very rare phenomenon here under normal circumstances,” says Michal Jankovský.
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