ART+ Almanac 2013 Published

The most important events in the local and global art markets

Last year was a record one for the Czech art market. According to ART+ statistics, collectors and investors spent CZK 946 million at Czech auctions and 157 works were auctioned for more than one million korunas each. One would need CZK 123 million to buy the ten most expensive paintings. Czech art also did well at foreign auctions. At a price exceeding CZK 60 million, František Kupka’s Étude sur Fond Rouge became the most expensive Czech artwork ever sold at auction.

These statistics and a host of additional information about the Czech and foreign art markets are included in the ART+ Almanac, which monitors events in the art market over the past year and which is being published for the fifth time. Apart from case studies about individual market segments and selected artists, it also contains detailed material on the situation on the antiques market. A new feature of this year’s almanac is the contemporary art index, prepared by ART+ in co-operation with J&T Banka. The index reports on the most interesting Czech contemporary artists born after 1950.


Record Year

The 946-million-koruna turnover represents a 7% increase year-on-year. Compared to the previous season when the total turnover grew by more than one-third year-on-year, however, this signals a certain downturn. “The most positive news of last year therefore is not the turnover level, but the increasing cultivation of the local auction scene,” Art+Antiques magazine editor-in-chief Jan Skřivánek writes in the introductory summary. Almost 10,000 works of art and antiques were sold at auction. Items auctioned for more than one million korunas represent a mere 1.6 per cent of the total number of auctioned works and total 58 per cent of the overall turnover. The average price of a work sold at Czech auction, disregarding million-koruna items, was CZK 43,000.


Czech Art Abroad

Works by Alphonse Mucha or Toyen appear quite regularly at foreign auctions. Last year, however, paintings by Václav Brožík, Josef Čapek, Jan Zrzavý, Emil Filla, Jiří Kolář and Zdeněk Sýkora were also on the market. “The range of Czech art at foreign auctions was really exceptional last year and Kupka’s painting Étude sur Fond Rouge with a price exceeding CZK 60 million meant a new price record for a Czech work of art,” ART+ editor-in-chief Marcela Chmelařová emphasises. Many of the works auctioned outside the country subsequently return to the Czech Republic. For instance, at the Sunday auction organised by 1. Art Consulting, an Emil Filla painting which was auctioned in London last June sold for CZK 8.4 million. Another exceptional event was the auction of Czech Biedermeier glass organised in December by Bonhams in London. Of the 58 offered items, 52 sold for a total price exceeding CZK 15 million. “The clientele was international. Americans, Germans, Russians and the British participated in the bidding war, while some interested parties came from the Near East. Several items were acquired by the Glasmuseum Passau,” said leading British historic-glass expert, John Sandon.


J&T Banka Art Index

The new contemporary art index is intended help beginning collectors orient themselves on the art scene. It is based on the assumption that one cannot objectively measure the actual value of art, but one can assess the success of an artist’s career. Jiří Kovanda, one of the internationally most successful Czech artists, scored the highest, followed by Kateřina Šedá and Eva Koťátková. Jiří Kovanda, who celebrated his 60th birthday last year, is one of the oldest artists in the top 100. Almost two-thirds of the featured artists were born after 1970, and the five youngest are still below the age of thirty. The high success rate of Jindřich Chalupecký Award winners and finalists is also interesting. Six award winners and three finalists feature in the top ten. In the top 100, we find 48 artists who have either won an award or have ranked amongst finalists.


The Most Significant Sales

According ART+ Almanac’s writers, the most significant events of last year were the auction of the collection of František Muzika’s paintings that returned to the Czech Republic from Germany after more than forty years; the auction of a newly discovered painting by Hans von Aachen that used to belong to the Rudolf II Collection; and the artist price records for works by Mikuláš Medek and Theodor Pištěk, which are also records in the post-war art and contemporary art categories. Other record-high prices were achieved by works by Václav Brožík, Alphonse Mucha, Václav Radimský, Bohumil Kubišta, Jan Zrzavý, Karel Černý, František Janoušek, Bohumír Matal, Václav Tikal, Radoslav Kratina, and Jiří Načeradský.


Million-koruna Lots of 2009–2013

According to auction house result lists, 636 works of art have sold for more than one million korunas each in the last five years. Václav Špála is represented with the highest number of paintings, as his name is featured 59 times on the list. Emil Filla is a close second with 57 paintings. Qi Baishi, the Chinese classic modern artist, is third, with 36 ink paintings sold for more than one million korunas each. Of the hundred most expensive paintings and sculptures ever sold at auction in the Czech Republic, seventy were sold in the last five years. If one were interested, one would need CZK 1.14 billion to buy all of the one hundred most expensive works. Just for comparison – the sculpture Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons, the most expensive work by a living artist ever sold in auction, sold for CZK 1.17 billion in New York in November.



The same principle – buyers primarily look for quality – applies both to the antiques market and the painting market. Top works have no problem selling for record-high prices, whereas interest in average pieces has stagnated. The situation in the category of furniture is problematic, as there may be additional restoration costs. One can see at auctions that functionalist furniture, which looks good in modern interiors, sells well. Die Neue Sammlung, the design and architecture museum in Munich, bought a tubular chair by Karel Ort. “We have completely mapped German design, but when an excellent piece of Czechoslovak provenance appears on the Czech market, I don’t hesitate to buy it,” ART+ Almanac quotes Professor Florian Hufnagl, the director of this institution. 


The Global Market

At Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions, collectors and investors spent USD 11 billion. Both houses sold works of art for an additional USD 2.2 billion in private sales. Francis Bacon’s Triptych from 1969 was auctioned for USD 142.4 million at Christie’s in November. ART+ Almanac, based on information in the American press, claims that its buyer was the American collector Elaine Wynn. Bacon’s triptych became the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. However, if we take into inflation account, the most expensive work of art is still Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which sold for USD 82.5 million in May 1990. Works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Gerhard Richter were auctioned at new artist records. 58-year-old Jeff Koons became the most expensive living artist when his sculpture Balloon Dog, measuring more than three metres in height, sold for USD 58.4 million in November.


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