Oct. 28, 2021

Not paintings only. How to invest in photography, comic strips and design?


In recent years, there has been a growing interest in less typical investments related to the art market, namely photography, comic strips, and design.



Photography is one of the most universal artistic media. However, it still seems to be insufficiently appreciated on the Polish market as a collector's item. We should keep in mind that not every photography is such an item. Photographs with the artist's signature or stamp and edition number deserve our attention as they confirm the number of prints circulating on the market. Prints made soon after taking a photo which is considered a full-fledged work of art are particularly valuable.

The prominence of photography on the art market was emphasized by establishing the Photography Centre by the Victoria&Albert Museum in 2018, which proves the surge in importance of this artistic form. 

While prices of works by foreign photographers have risen significantly (the most expensive photography sold is "The New Jeff Koons" by Jeff Koons – USD 9 405 000), photos by Polish artists may be still purchased relatively inexpensively, which, taking into consideration global trends, is an opportunity for collectors and investors and may constitute an interesting and promising investment.

The Polish auction market offers a wide range of photographs. Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz is one of the most prominent Polish artists whose photos are available at auctions. His art has had a stable value on the market and his photographs amount to at least several dozen thousand PLN. The photo "Monster of Düsseldorf" was auctioned for PLN 200,000 in 2017. Further, Roman Opałka's photographs, which complement his paintings, amount to approximately PLN 100,000 at auctions. Women's works, particularly from the 1970s and 1980s Avant-garde movement, constitute a remarkably important part of Polish photography, including authors like Natalia LL, Ewa Partum, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Katarzyna Górna.

The Collector's Photography auction organized by DESA Unicum is the only periodic (held twice a year), professional photography auction in Poland. The October edition presented the classics and avant-garde of Polish and world photography, as well as the masters of nudes. 


Comic Strips


Comic strips are original, hand-made drawings, which are the basis for printed comic books that brought up entire generations. Apart from the collector's value, the sentimental and reminiscent dimension should also be appreciated, as the characters from the comic books went down in our memory. This emotional charge encourages us even more to collect this type of works and prompts the collectors to pay large amounts of money for comic strips.


France has the most developed comic book market, where price records are broken. The current record price, amounting to over USD 3.5 million, was paid for the strips for the French comic about the adventures of Tintin. 
In Poland, the comic strip market, which was a niche until recent times, is gradually developing. Strips have been appearing at the auctions for several years and galleries hold thematic exhibitions.

Recently, the 32nd International Festival of Comics and Games was organized in Łódź. It is one of the numerous events gathering people interested in the art of comics. Its tradition in Poland dates to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Comic book albums win literary awards, and the strips are displayed in galleries around the world. France, the USA, and Japan are market leaders in this field. 
Comic books in Poland were remarkably successful in the 1970s and 1980s, when the genre was very popular and numerous publications were issued. At that time, Polish cartoonists were making high-profile careers. Grzegorz Rosiński's "Thorgal" conquered the Francophone countries. Bogusław Polch's great drawing style turned out to be better than his German counterparts' and it was he who drew "Gods from Space" or "Funky Koval" on a commission from a German publisher.


The most important comic book artists include Grzegorz Rosiński (his comic strips for the series about Torgal made the big time in France with its prize amounting up to EUR 50,000), the famous Papcio Chmiel - Henryk Jerzy Chmielewski (his comic book cover for the adventures of Tytus, Romek and A'Tomek was auctioned for PLN 75,000), Bogusław Polch, the author of the comic book series about The Witcher, Tadeusz Baranowski, who created the character of Professor Nerwosolek, Janusz Christa, and Mieczysław Wiśniewski. 
Their works' prices currently amount to over a dozen up to several dozen PLN, however, one can still come across bargain prices, which makes this market segment remarkably interesting and have a big future ahead of it.


Design and Handicrafts 

After the exhibition "We Want to be Modern", organized at the National Museum in Warsaw in 2011, during which the most outstanding works of Polish post-war industrial design were presented, e.g. porcelain, ceramics, fabrics, and furniture from the 1950s and 1960s, the art market focused on applied arts from this period. Initially, people looked for these items in cellars or cubbyholes, and afterward, they turned to the collector's market.


Industrial production includes batches that differ from other pieces in their circulation, color, or standard. Such works have become the most desirable items among collectors. The price of five porcelain figures by Lubomir Tomaszewski may serve as an example, each figure was auctioned for more than PLN 10,000. 

Objects made of glass also gained a second life. Rare forms, small batches, and unusual colors of these mass-produced objects sometimes have higher prices than unique glass. 

In post-war Poland, there were few ceramic cooperatives. Their products were associated with kitsch and did not coincide with the interest of collectors or museum institutions. It changed in 2011, after Barbara Banaś published the "Polska New Look" book and following the exhibition organized at the National Museum in Wrocław in 2015, when prices of these items increased significantly.

The price of Roman Modzelewski's armchair prototype, which amounted to PLN 80,000, exemplifies that promoted Polish design is valuable on the market.