12. září 2023
Collectors and investors spent over CZK 100 million at global auctions of Czech artworks. One can only guess what the proportion of buyers from the Czech Republic was, but it was probably significant.
The aforementioned sum does not include graphic works by Alphonse Mucha or works of the Czech photographic avant-garde, where a foreign buyer can be expected more than in the case of paintings by Adolf Chwala, Václav Brožík, Emil Filla and Mikuláš Medek. By the way, five works auctioned in the first half of the year at global auctions have already been offered for repeated sale through Czech auction houses.
The most expensive Czech artwork at global auctions was Jakub Schikaneder’s painting A Street Corner in Prague, which was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London in May for CZK 9.8 million (prices include commission and other fees). The pre-auction estimate counted on the work fetching between 120,000 and 180,000 pounds sterling (without auctioneer commission); during the auction, its price soared by another 50,000 pounds sterling and in the end even surpassed the artist’s four-year-old record on the Czech market by several tens of thousands of korunas. In the monograph published three years ago on the occasion of Schikaneder’s exhibition, the painting is reproduced only in black-and-white, based on a photograph that appeared in the magazine Zlatá Praha in 1924.
Old Prague / 1900–10
oil on canvas / 105 x 84 cm
price: 288 200 GBP /
Sotheby’s 22. 5. 2014
Not even three weeks after the London auction, another painting by Schikaneder, Night in the Harbour from 1896, was offered at an auction in Stockholm, where it fetched CZK 2.1 million. In addition to Schikaneder, another artist from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries – Beneš Knüpfer – was successful at the beginning of May in London. The price of his more-than-two-metre-wide Duel of the Tritons grew to CZK 1.7 million at a Christie’s auction, and the painting thus improved on its seventeen-year-old record by half a million korunas. Knüpfer is yet to be auctioned for more than a million korunas on the Czech market, but he still tripled his auction maximum last year.
From 19th century art, five paintings by Václav Brožík and many works by Czech landscape painters, from August Bedřich Piepenhagen to Julius Mařák, appeared at foreign auctions. The early painting St. Ludmila by Gabriel von Max, presented by a certain New York-based gallery at the TEFAF fair in Maastricht, is worthy of mention. However, it did not find a new owner until the end of the year, the asking price being in excess of CZK 8 million. From among Brožík’s paintings, bidders fought the most fiercely over the painting Goose Girl from the end of the 1880s, which sold for almost one million korunas at the beginning of May at an auction organised by a local American auction house. Half a year later, this work fetched a record CZK 2.6 million at Galerie Kodl (Picture 54 in the list of million-koruna items).
The sum of CZK 4.18 million paid for a large landscape by Adolf Kosárek, auctioned at Dorotheum in Vienna in October, represents a new artist record. Three Czech bidders vied for the painting and the final price surpassed the artist’s previous, five-year-old auction record by CZK 1.4 million. Six paintings by Adolf Chwala were offered at auctions in Vienna, Cologne and Paris. The most expensive of them was a twilight landscape whose price at Dorotheum soared to CZK 580,000, three times more than was expected. A landscape by Jan Kautský was auctioned at Dorotheum for the same price. Works by other landscape painters fetched up to CZK 400,000 each. Only two landscapes by Antonín Chittussi auctioned in Paris sold for more than half a million korunas each.
Apart from a host of gouache and graphic works by František Kupka, two interesting paintings of his dating to the first decade of the 20th century appeared at global auctions last year. An impressive portrait of a woman, Portrait Au Chapeau Rouge from 1906, was auctioned for CZK 9.6 million, roughly double the estimate, at the end of May in Berlin at an auction organised by Grisebach. Another early oil of his was auctioned in mid-November in London. An almost Fauvist, nude figure of a girl on a beach sold at a significant premium for CZK 2.7 million. From among Kupka’s works on paper, an abstract pastel attracted the greatest interest and fetched roughly CZK 700,000 in March in Paris.
Dozens of posters and works on paper by Alphonse Mucha were offered at auctions from Paris to New York. The most expensive lithographs, the series The Times of the Day and The Four Seasons, were auctioned for over one million korunas. Even his posters fetched around half a million korunas a piece. Of Mucha’s paintings, a partial study in oil for the painting Slavs in Their Original Homeland attracted the highest interest, when it sold for more than CZK 2 million in March in Paris.
Josef Šíma: Reflêt glacial / 1961
oil on canvas / 162,5 x 130 cm
price: 325 500 eur /
Christie’s 4. 6. 2014
Probably the most important event in terms of the future development of prices was the auction of four paintings by Josef Šíma from the beginning of the 1960s, offered by Sotheby’s and Christie’s in Paris at the beginning of June. All four paintings sold, ranging in price from CZK 2 million to CZK 8.9 million each. The price achieved for the large canvas Reflêt glacial from 1961 is a new record for a post-war Šíma painting and at the same time one of the highest prices ever paid for a work by the artist. The last time a Šíma work was auctioned for more than CZK 5 million was six years ago in the Czech Republic.
As for classic modernism, works by Emil Filla, Otakar Kubín, Jiří Kars, Otto Gutfreund, Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen and Jan Zrzavý appeared at auctions in London, Paris, Cologne and Bern. The biggest battle was fought over the expressive painting Cubist Figure by Otakar Kubín, which sold in November in London at a significant premium for CZK 6.6 million, CZK 200,000 more than the artist’s record on the Czech market. The painting was offered within the framework of a Sotheby’s auction entitled A Different Perspective, which took place on the same day as (but just a few hours earlier than) the auction of the Cullen Collection whose focus was on Eastern European art. A Filla still life from 1930 sold for CZK 3 million, and the prices of CZK 915,000 for Concert Relief by Otto Gutfreund and CZK 236,000 for a cubist drawing by Antonín Procházka also constituted a success.
As for sales outside of London, Jan Zrzavý’s painting Old Boats from 1937 fetched the most. At a November auction organised by the Swiss auction house Dobiaschofsky, it was auctioned for almost CZK 1.8 million, CZK 600,000 less than the price for which it was unsuccessfully offered in Prague two years earlier. Of the works that have already returned to the Czech market, we should mention Toyen’s painting Factory from the beginning of the 1920s, which was auctioned for CZK 940,000 in June in London (Picture 47), and a floral still life by Jiří Kars, which sold for almost half a million korunas in Paris in May.
Zdeněk Sýkora: Lines 72 / 1990
oil on canvas/ 148 x 148 cm
price: 128 100 eur /
Lempertz 30. 5. 2014
Several post-war artworks, led by two Mikuláš Medek paintings, were sold for million-koruna amounts at global auctions. At A Different Perspective, the aforementioned auction in London, his large painting Three Difficult Absences from 1964 fetched almost CZK 3.5 million. Two weeks later, another Medek painting was auctioned in Berlin for CZK 3 million. The auction house Bassenge even chose his painting Island, 21870 cm2 for the front page of the catalogue, and its final price exceeded the pre-auction estimate by one million korunas.
At a May auction organised by Lempertz in Cologne, two line pictures by Zdeněk Sýkora from the beginning of the 1990s appeared. The larger Line no. 72 sold for CZK 3.5 million, while the one-by-one-metre Line no. 86 fetched CZK 2.5 million. Two paintings by Václav Boštík were offered at Christie’s auctions in Paris during the year, but only one of them, a nebula from the late 1980s, found a buyer. In November, Dorotheum Vienna auctioned two paintings by Jan Kubíček, which changed owners for CZK 380,000 and CZK 760,000, respectively. Finally, we should mention the small painting Tower IV by František Muzika, which sold for CZK 360,000 in March in Belgium, roughly half the price it fetched at an auction in Prague two months later.
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