State of the art: Polish art market defies covid to grow 30%

Jacek Malczewski’s Artysta i Chimera sold for PLN 3,658,000 at auction. Despite the pandemic, art sales have increased by almost 30 percent compared to H1 of 2019. Public domain

Defying the pandemic, latest stats from Artinfo.pl have revealed the booming nature of Poland’s art market with figures up a staggering 30% on last year.

“Over the last few years we have witnessed a constant breaking of records,” said Rafał Kamecki, President of Artinfo.pl. “In 2019, the art market in Poland achieved its highest turnover (PLN 300 million) and a record number of 337 auctions were also held with one of the auction houses exceeding PLN 150 million in turnover and winning over half of the market.

This year’s most expensive sale saw a collection of sculptures known as Caminando by Magdalena Abakanowicz fetching just over PLN 8 million.Mateusz Marek/PAP

“In the first half of 2020, the period when the pandemic caused a storm in almost every industry, art sales increased by almost 30 percent compared to the first half of the previous year. If this trend continues, we will achieve a historic result at the end of this year.”

This year’s most expensive sale saw a collection of sculptures known as Caminando by Magdalena Abakanowicz fetching just over PLN 8 million.

The set of 20 headless figures, each measuring about 174 centimetres, were seen as being a characteristic representation of Abakanowicz’s work.

“Over the last few years we have witnessed a constant breaking of records,” says Rafał Kamecki, President of Artinfo.pl.artinfo.pl

Elsewhere, Jan Matejko’s portrait of Professor Karol Gilewski sold for a cool PLN 6,962,000 in June, almost double the value of the second most expensive painting: Jacek Malczewski’s Artysta i Chimera (PLN 3,658,000).

Two auction houses continued to dominate proceedings, with Desa Unicum taking a 43.6% market share in H1 and Polswiss Art taking 23.9%. Five other auction houses took just over 1% each, while the remaining 9.2% was spread across smaller auction houses.

Jan Matejko’s portrait of Professor Karol Gilewski has been the year’s biggest selling painting, fetching a cool PLN 6,962,000 in June.Public domain

In terms of auctions, 199 took place in H1 compared to 159 in the previous year. Hosting 68 of these, Desa Unicum held the most.

The latest figures are a confirmation of Poland’s increasing appetite for art. Amounting to just over PLN 73 million in 2016, sales have surged year-on-year ever since, with this year’s figures up PLN 33 million on the same period last year.

Two auction houses continued to dominate proceedings, with Desa Unicum taking a 43.6% market share in H1 and Polswiss Art taking 23.9%.Radek Pietruszka/PAP

June proved the busiest month with 41 auctions generating PLN 50 million in sales, while March, April and May each saw 30 auctions.

Of the objects sold, paintings made up 81% of the total value generated despite representing 58% of the total number of items sold.

In terms of auctions, 199 took place in H1 compared to 159 in the previous year. Hosting 68 of these, Desa Unicum held the most.Bartłomiej Zborowski/PAP

“Once upon a time,” says Kamecki, “the buyers were connoisseurs, aesthetes – mostly old art collectors; it was quite a closed circle.

“Currently, art market customers combine their passion for beauty with business and to a large extent treat the purchase of a work as an investment. They are very conscious market participants. We have a growing group of new clients who are seasoned and brave. They are not afraid, they do not hesitate, they are ready to pay higher and higher amounts. They can see that the market is developing.”