Portrait by ‘megastar’ Polish artist sells for staggering $1.5mln at US auction
A painting by one of Poland’s best-known contemporary artists has sold for a staggering USD 1,560,000 with the proceeds from the sale donated to Warsaw’s POLIN museum.
Comfortably surpassing its original valuation of between 200-300 thousand USD, the painting Portrait of a Lady (After Louis Leopold Boilly) by Ewa Juszkiewicz went under the hammer alongside works by such luminaries as Banksy, Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool and Gerhard Richter.
Part of a wider auction focusing on 21st contemporary art, the work was painted in 2019 by the Gdańsk-born artist who specializes in the reinterpretation of classic portraits so as to lend them ‘a cultural afterlife’ updated for the present times.
Intended to question 18th and 19th century representations of class and gender, Portrait of a Lady (After Louis Leopold Boilly) was based upon Madame Saint-Ange Chevrier, an 1807 painting currently hanging in Stockholm’s National Museum.
Ana Maria Celis, head of last night’s auction, said: “Portrait of a Lady (After Louis Leopold Boilly) thoughtfully examines the historical erasure of women through Juszkiewicz’s singular and subversive techniques.
“The juxtaposition of the classical stylization with the evocative subject matter of a female sitter’s whose head is fully wrapped sparks new narratives around portrayals of femininity and deconstructs the past to create new dialogues.”
Notable for its deft brushwork, the painting has been hailed as one of Juszkiewicz’s defining works and symbolic of her style.
Largely reimagining Flemish masterpieces, Juszkiewicz seeks to redress historical failures in the artistic portrayal of women. Often relegated to being little more than anonymous objects of beauty, Juszkiewicz, says art critic Lucia Longhi, has “dismantled these old paradigms that hid a woman’s personality and visualized a new role for them.”
To do so, Juszkiewicz masks her subjects with sweeping locks of hair, tangled vines or, in this case, pristine fabrics matched to the dress. “By deconstructing the original painting,” continues Longhi, “she deconstructs the conventions behind it.”
Regarded as one of Poland’s best-known contemporary artists, the auction, held by the New York branch of the globally renowned Christie’s, has served to underline Juszkiewicz’s soaring stock.
“For any and all initiatives, the goal at auction is to ensure the best possible result,” a Christie’s spokesperson told TFN. “This can only be achieved through offering outstanding works of art – we are honored to offer a work by one of the most exceptional contemporary artists working today.”
Brought to auction thanks to a gift by one of POLINs benefactors, American Friends of POLIN Museum, together with the support of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland and the law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, the painting is the first to be auctioned in a series of partnered sales at Christie’s aimed at raising funds for POLIN.
Bartosz Dymarek of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland told TFN: “We hope this will be the first of a string of similar sales – both in the US and Poland – that will support the museum. As such, we are continuing talks with other potential donors.
“It’s the first time that either the American Friends of POLIN Museum or the Association of the JHI have attempted to raise significant funds through an art auction, so we knew that we had to find a reliable partner in this field. Christie’s is a well-established and respected global brand, and we are very grateful, that they welcomed our idea with excitement. By partnering with Christie’s, we are confident that our financial goals can and will be met.”
As pledged by POLIN, all raised income from this and future art sales shall go towards supporting the statutory activities of the museum, such as their Cook for Ukraine project – launched shortly after the war, the initiative has seen countless lunches cooked and delivered for those fleeing the war.