22. listopadu 2023
The category of post-war modernism consolidated its position as the second most important segment on the Czech auction market last year and also an area that has enjoyed dynamic development in recent years. Of the 40 artist records last year, roughly one-fifth were in this segment.
The status of the leader of this category was strengthened last year by painter Mikuláš Medek. Of the four canvases offered, all sold at a significant premium, double the highest price of an informal Medek painting from the 1960s and 1970s. The large portrait-format work A Drunken Saint fetched CZK 3.56 million in May, while another large painting, 3604 cm2 of Rustling, 536 cm2 of Silence, sold for CZK 3.7 million in October, both through 1. Art Consulting (Pictures 34 and 32). An additional two smaller oils by Medek sold for CZK 660,000 each.
Painter Theodor Pištěk, previously traded solely through private sales, appeared for the first time a year ago and made a significant impression in the category of post-war art. At the end of last year, this artist again confirmed his position as the most expensive living painter when his thirty-year-old painting Gull Flying into a Dream (Picture 38) sold at a premium for CZK 3.48 million at Galerie Kodl. The painting, which is more than three metres wide, thus broke the previous record held by the painting A Visit to the Harrachs by almost CZK 300,000. As for the painters of the pre-war generation, the late work of Josef Šíma did well. A significant increase in price, from CZK 264,000 to CZK 876,000, was achieved by a fine work on cardboard from 1947, White Variation on Blue. Šíma’s abstract landscapes from the 1960s also sold well; his Landscape (Picture 101) fetched CZK 1.44 million, while the small Landscape with Crystal sold for CZK 528,000. The oil Metamorphosis IV from 1966 (Picture 21) fetched the highest price at CZK 4.92 million and is the second most expensive post-war work by Šíma.
Shortly after the retrospective exhibition of Stanislav Podhrázský, two paintings sold for a new artist record despite the fact that none of his works had ever appeared on the market until last year. In April, Girl with a Mullein fetched CZK 516,000 at Galerie Art Praha after having returned from a private U.S. collection. One month later, this sum was beaten by the composition Three Girls from the end of the 1970s, which was auctioned at European Arts for CZK 900,000. However, perhaps the most valuable acquisition for its new owner was the smaller A Lunar Landscape from 1954, which fetched CZK 216,000. A large informal painting by Jan Koblasa, What Is Down Is Also Up, from the turn of the 1950s and 1960s sold at a May auction organised by Galerie Kodl for a new artist record of CZK 528,000.
Another classic artist of post-war modernism, Václav Boštík, was not heard of much. Two works by him were offered at auction for more than one million korunas each, with only Colour Folding from the beginning of the 1980s (Picture 85) finding an owner. The painting, which six months earlier had been offered at auction by Sotheby’s in London, sold for the starting price of CZK 1.67 million in Prague. Of among the other UB 12 artists, the early oil sketch Self-Portrait in a Mirror by Adriena Šimotová sold for CZK 192,000, while Jiří John’s Minerals from the end of the 1960s fetched CZK 456,000, both of them at Pictura. Of constructivism-oriented artists, Zdeněk Sýkora twice scored significantly last year. For the first time in February, when the price of his Line no. 212 (a late work from 2002, Picture 26) soared during its auction, increasing by an entire million to CZK 3.97 million, which is the highest auction price ever paid for a Sýkora line picture, and for the second time in October, when his Black and White Macrostructure (Picture 55), an oil exhibited already in 1972, the year it was painted, sold at a significant premium for CZK 2.62 million. Both works were offered by 1. Art Consulting. The same auction house also auctioned a large acrylic painting by Jan Kubíček from 1969, Concrete Combination, which was sold at a premium as well, namely for CZK 528,000, and an imaginative abstract work by the Brno-based Jánuš Kubíček, Attempt at Pictorial Space, which sold for the starting price of CZK 288,000.
Two additional artist records in this category are worth mentioning. The first one was broken in February by Zbyšek Sion’s painting Fall from 1968, which sold for CZK 432,000. The second artist record at the same auction, organised by 1. Art Consulting, was achieved by Bedřich Dlouhý’s painting Arana from 1977, which fetched CZK 372,000. At the same auction house in October, the sum of CZK 456,000 paid for a Jiří Hilmar paper relief from 1972 was a new record. After a period of just one year, painter Vladimír Kopecký again improved on his artist record when his spatial geometric painting Alone, from the key period of the end of the 1960s, sold for CZK 336,000. Two additional Kopecký paintings from the same year, Beams and In a Green Meadow, sold for CZK 115,000 and CZK 96,000, respectively.
Of the interesting solitary sales last year, one must not omit the auction of the early post-war painting Street by Zdeněk Sklenář. The poetically stylised urban landscape stirred interest among the bidders at Galerie Art Praha’s November auction, and the new owner acquired this small work at a premium for CZK 792,000. Last year, two figure paintings from the last years of Jiří Balcar’s career were put up for auction and found new owners for CZK 312,000 and CZK 336,000, respectively. From among works by artists whose career focus was in the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, the excellent Still Life with Black Apples by Jitka Kolínská was auctioned again last year, this time at a significant premium, for CZK 348,000, while Richard Fremund’s Half a Nude fetched CZK 312,000, also at a premium. Robert Piesen’s informal Scratches, a canvas from the interesting year 1959, fetched CZK 720,000.
The sum of CZK 408,000 paid at a March auction organised by Dorotheum for the unique poetic work On Letná Plain by Vladimír Fuka represents a new artist record. Its starting price was CZK 84,000. At the same auction, buyers fought over Fuka’s Circus Henry at Letná, which sold at a significant premium for CZK 240,000. Contrary to that, another collector’s pearl, the early, pre-war Urban Landscape by Václav Bartovský was auctioned at a November auction organised by Galerie Kodl for CZK 108,000 without any signs of significant interest. For only the second time ever, a painting by Josef Vyleťal was auctioned for more than one million korunas, the first time being more than six years ago. In February at 1. Art Consulting, the large oil Strange Annunciation from 1974 (Picture 103) fetched almost CZK 1.44 million from the starting price of CZK 780,000. Overall, ten Vyleťal paintings were sold at this auction, with only one remaining without a new owner.
Of the typically post-war artists, several works that can be described as contemporary art due to their dating sold well last year. Of these, one worthy of mention is Spring Kiss, a late two-by-two-metre monumental work by Otakar Slavík, which found a buyer for the starting price of CZK 600,000. With this price, it remained only CZK 60,000 below A Sitting Tightrope Walker, Slavík’s record canvas from 1979. A monochromatic black oil by Milan Grygar from 1989 sold for CZK 420,000 at the Adolf Loos Apartment and Gallery. One of the larger works on canvas by painter Daisy Mrázková sold at a premium as well. The painting Rocks from 1995 found a new owner for CZK 175,000, the artist’s current record, at Prague Auctions. Many interesting works from the category of post-war art were also auctioned in the sculpture segment. Stanislav Kolíbal and Jan Švankmajer broke their artist records, but more details are provided in a separate case study.
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