Only the Very Best

Year 2012 at Czech Art Auctions

To have purchased the 10 most expensive art works of 2012, a potential buyer would have needed more than 200 million Czech crowns, whereas a year earlier they would have needed less than half this amount. The previous year saw a new record as far as the Czech market was concerned. “It is clear that in 2012 collectors and investors spent more money at Czech auctions than in any other single year in the past,” says Marcela Chmelařová, editor in-chief of ART+.

The most expensive work of the year was Tvar modré (Shape of Blue) by František Kupka, auctioned in spring by the Adolf Loos Apartment and Gallery at a record 57.42 million Czech crowns (all prices stated include the auctioneer’s commission). It is the highest price ever paid at auction for a work of Czech art not only in this country, but also on the world market. Jan Skřivánek, editor-in-chief of Art+ Antiques magazine, says about the result: “The price attained was a surprise, but taking into account the rarity of Kupka’s abstract paintings and the excellent provenance of the work, it is logical.” He adds: “The new owner obtained the painting for almost 1.9 million pounds, which is 300,000 more than the previous one-year-old Kupka record, although Tvar modré is a much more significant work.”

Czech Art Market

Besides Tvar modré, two other Kupka paintings rank in the top 10 most expensive works: Apoteóza Heleny (Apotheosis of Helena) from 1906, sold at the 1. Art Consulting auction in March for 15.75 million Czech crowns, and Úsměv O (Smile O) from 1933 to 1951, sold in the same auction room in June for 23.71 million Czech crowns. Apoteóza Heleny, which is one of the works the artist used to present himself at the Paris salons, can now be seen at the exhibition, František Kupka: Cesta k Amorfě. The painting has appeared at foreign auctions several times in the past. Marcela Chmelařová from ART+ added: “It was last auctioned in December 2006 at Christie’s in Paris, where it had been auctioned for approximately one third of the price for which it was sold in Prague in spring.”

Another mainstay among the top 10 most expensive works of the year is Emil Filla, occupying the highest positions in the past two years. In 2012, Filla’s paintings ranked fourth to sixth place. According to ART+ statistics, another 11 works by this artist were sold last year. “Several dozen Filla paintings and drawings go to auction every year, and so potential buyers can easily gain a realistic idea of the prices involved. Filla is perceived as a sure investment, and so he is interesting not only for traditional collectors, but also for people buying art only to diversify their investment portfolio,” explains the ART+ editor in-chief.

Czech Art Market

Two spots in the top 10 are occupied by Chinese art: a painting by Qi Baishi, a master of modern ink painting, whose scrollwork appeared in the top 10 in 2011; and a medieval bronze statue of the bodhisattva, Kuan-jin, auctioned in November at the Zezula auction house in Brno for 19.11 million Czech crowns. “High prices for Chinese art works are a phenomenon of the past three years,” explains Chmelařová. “Thanks to intensive Czech-Chinese cultural relations during the 50s, many fine works by the leading artists of that time have been preserved, and are now enjoying great interest from Chinese collectors and investors,” adds the ART+ general editor. For example, at the specialized Galerie Arcimboldo auction in December, 55 Chinese art works were sold for a total of more than 65 million Czech crowns.

The painting by the Russian impressionist Konstantin Korovin ranked in ninth place, sold at the Dorotheum auction in May for 11.6 million Czech crowns. Works by this author have been auctioned several times in the past, even featuring among the top 10 most expensive works of 2003 and 2004. “Interwar Czechoslovakia was one of the centres of Russian emigration and many of the works entered our country through Czech diplomats and traders working in Russia, or rather the Soviet Union,” explains Chmelařová. “But the interest in Russian art had peaked and such a fine painting had not appeared on the Czech market for the past four to five years,” says the ART+ general editor.

Czech Art Market

The last work of art we have not yet mentioned is the painting Potápěč (Diver) by Toyen, ranking eighth at 13.65 million Czech crowns. Although this is the third highest price achieved at a Czech auction for works by this painter, the seller was probably not very happy with it. He acquired the painting at the Sotheby’s auction in Paris for 15 million Czech crowns almost two years ago. “It is an excellent painting which will certainly have a much higher value one day. This is also a warning that investing in art is not as easy as it may seem at times. Art as an investment tool is particularly interesting in the long term,” warns the ART+ general editor. “There is an old rule of thumb which says that it is better to collect art than to invest in it. If you buy art because you like it, you will never lose money on it, no matter which way the price goes.”

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