Feb. 2, 2022

OLD MASTERS – THE EVERGREEN ART OF THE POLISH ART MARKET

The year 2021 has brought about an expected and significant expansion of the Polish art market. The Old Masters art still ranks among the strongest segments, which was confirmed by last year's auctions and records. 

 

In the second year of the pandemic, the collectors have eagerly purchased classical Polish artworks - at the same time appreciating their outstanding collectors' value as well as a means of preservation. On December 9th, the most profitable auction of Old Masters art on the Polish art market took place. Its total turnover amounted to nearly 31 million PLN, with all Old Masters auctions at DESA Unicum amounting to over 102 million PLN. ‘Curated sales' have also enjoyed collector's popularity, as the classic trends of the Polish art market strengthened. 

 

Jan Matejko, "Św. Stanisław karcący Bolesława Śmiałego" (1877) sprzedany w czerwcu 2021

The classical painting of the 19th and 20th centuries is an area that continually attracts the collector's interest. In 2022, five years will pass since the first artwork was publicly auctioned off for over a million dollars in Poland. It was the iconic ‘Maternity' work by Stanisław Wyspiański, that ended up in a prestigious private collection and could be admired by the public at the ‘Wyspiański. Afterword' exhibition at the National Museum in Cracow. The year 2021 has brought about record auctions of the classics of 19th-century Polish painting. Among others, an unprecedented record for the ‘Fair in the region of Krakow' work of Józef Brandt (hammer price of 3.9 million PLN) was set in DESA Unicum. In the middle of the year, the most expensive work at an Old Masters auction at DESA Unicum was sold - ‘Saint Stanislaus scolding Bolesław the Bold'. It is one of the few historical Jan Matejko works remaining in private hands. The uniqueness and representativeness of the style of the artists favoured the high results. 

In 2021, we had the opportunity to work on the presentation and sale of the outstanding works by Jacek Malczewski. In March, the 1914 ‘Orpheus and Eurydice' (hammer price of 2.4 million PLN) hit the market. In October it was the lost 1902 ‘Portrait of Stanisław Witkiewicz' (hammer price of 3 million PLN) and in December - the ‘Nativity Play' from 1888 (the hammer price of 4 million PLN). The works of Malczewski, the greatest Polish symbolist, remain an object of many collectors' desires since the formation of the Polish art market over 30 years ago. The strictly contemporary auctions of his works set upward tendencies for the Old Masters market and will surely shape the market from 2022 on. Apart from Malczewski, considering the ‘Young Polish' painting, we note record sales, such as in the case of Julian Fałat (1.8 million PLN), Włodzimierz Tetmajer (1.05 millon PLN), or Władysław Ślewiński (620.000 PLN). 

 

One of the more significant events taking place on the market in 2021 was the sale of works by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. His ‘Whale and Andromeda' from the historical collection of the Żeleński family was sold for the hammer price of 700.000 PLN. It will be exhibited at the artist's exhibition at the National Museum in Warsaw mid-year. Collectors also discover the classicist paintings of the interior period with delight. The year 2021 brought about the record auctions of Bolesław Cybis (660.000 PLN), or Tadeusz Pruszkowski (520.000 PLN). The best works of the classics from the Paris School today reach prices significantly above the one million PLN threshold. During the December Old Masters auction, records for the works of Mela Muter (1.5 million PLN) and Mojżesz Kisling (2 million PLN) were established. 

 

The works on paper are becoming more expensive, the tangible proof of which is the turnover of the November 19th Century and Modern Art auction (nearly 4.2 million PLN). The auction became the most profitable auction of works on paper in Poland. Auctions of such kind enjoy continuous popularity among collectors. The demand for works of this type and for artists who created only on paper are higher every year. 

 

The popularity of the traditionalist painting of the Kossak family has gained new popularity. The works of Juliusz, Wojciech, and Jerzy, if always present in Polish private collections, are currently sold for record amounts. The popularity of this old/new phenomenon was confirmed at the November ‘The Kossak Family' auction. At our Art of Old Poland auction, we have presented objects relating to the Old Polish culture, such as kontusz belts, Gdańsk mugs, or carrier belts. Once again, they have proven to be attractive collectors' items. 

Linking trends, mixing of the styles and periods - those were the common characteristics of numerous projects organised in 2021 at DESA Unicum. Those that have especially brought out the value of artworks were the curated ‘Nikifor/Dwurnik. Dialogue of Masters' (where a record for a Nikifor's work was set - 32.000 PLN) and the ‘Object of Desire. The Still Life Paintings and Item in Art'. In the offers presented by DESA Unicum, names from the international canon of art appear more and more frequently. During the September auction of artistic graphics, a unique copperplate - ‘Holy Family with Three Hares' - by Albrecht Dürer was sold. During the April sculpture auction, the so-called third reduction of Auguste Rodin's ‘The Kiss' was auctioned off with great success (1.45 million PLN). Alongside the internationalisation of the Polish art market, works of such calibre will be offered at DESA Unicum more and more frequently.