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Polish art market bucks global downturn

Poland is expected to record the highest sales of art in its history, for another year in a row, bucking the global market trend. In 2020 the international art market fell due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to around EUR 43.2 billion, 22% down year-on-year. Experts estimate that in 2020 the turnover on the Polish auction market reached a total of EUR 82.4 million, compared to EUR 64 million a year earlier and eight times higher than a decade ago. The market is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 24%. annually in the coming years. 

One of the main reasons is investors seeking to avoid inflation and spreading savings to more resilient sources of wealth, such as bonds, real estate or gold. Between February 2020 and July 2021, the value of deposits in Polish banks decreased by EUR 27.2 billion, down a whopping 42%. Last year, as calculated by the Artinfo portal, nearly 80% of sales were generated by three auction houses: Desa Unicum (51.6%), Polswiss Art (18.3%) and Agra-Art (9.3%). 

Certainly, a stimulating factor is also the increase in Poles’ wealth, as well as the fashion for surrounding oneself with original works. At the same time, the popularity of investing in art in Poland is driven by enormous increases in value, often up to several dozen percent per year. It also turns out that art auctions are not as elite as it might seem. Yes, many works are valued at millions of euros and only the richest can afford them, but a large group of Poles like to safely allocate amounts from EUR 5,000 to EUR 20,000.

In Poland one observes a fashion for the art of the 1980s and the works of artists from that period, one example being Paweł Kowalewski – an artist and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, founder of the legendary Gruppa, an icon of Polish art of the 1980s. He has staged at NS-DOK in Munich, Castello di Rivoli in Turin, Artist’s House in Tel Aviv, Galeria Tretiakowska in Moscow or Galeria Isa Brachot in Brussels. His works are in the largest Polish collections

“The Polish art market will certainly develop, but at the moment in Germany or Austria the prices of artists from my generation are much higher. I mean, for example, the list of the Gruppa (i.e. the 6 most important artists from the 1980s) and the works of Jörg Immendorff, Georg Baselitz or Anselm Kiefer,” Kowalewski.

The pace of development of the Polish market is evidenced by the increase in the number of works sold. In 2020 – Artinfol calculates – 9,000 of them were sold, and in the first half of 2021 as many as 15,000. The largest auction houses are still increasing their turnover. The leading one, Desa Unicum, for the first time in history  exceeded EUR 21.7 million. A year ago, they were 58% lower. There has not been a month, or sometimes a week, on the Polish auction market without breaking a few price records. Especially since sometimes there have been several auctions on one day, with 294 in total. 

Magdalena Abakanowicz’s work “Crowd III” reached the highest price in the history of art auctions in Poland – EUR 2.86 million. The sculpture, sold at DESA Unicum in October 2021, is considered one of the most important works of the Polish artist.

Adam Białas
Adam Białas
construction and real estate market expert, manager and advisor in many projects with over 20 years of experience, business journalist. He also covers financials, (M&A, IPO-WSE, development and financing, Private Equity / VC funds), IT, HoReCa, MICE, digitization, e-commerce and gaming. For many years, he has been cooperating with the leading media in Poland and abroad, with the most important organizations in the sector and international chambers of commerce. Globetrotter, culture and art lover.