Exceptional French painting fails to interest Czech art collectors

Maurice de Vlaminck, 'Landscape with Buildings'

This weekend a painting by a famous French Fauvist painter Maurice de Vlaminck was sold at an auction in Prague’s Dorotheum for 5.3 million crowns (approximately 280,000 US dollars). Even though it was valued at 7 million crowns, in the end it only slightly exceeded the starting price. Vlaminck’s “Landscape with Buildings”, dating back to 1914, has thus become the 13th most expensive work of art to be sold at a Czech auction. The head of the auction house Marie Galova says it is not easy to explain the lack of interest on the part of buyers but it may be connected with the local character of the Czech art market.

“It’s very difficult to answer because it’s very difficult in advance to say how much it will reach finally. But generally we can say that there are two groups which could buy it. There are Czech collectors and foreigners. And even though it’s a very exceptional proposition on our market, Vlaminck’s paintings are offered at the auctions for example in Paris, London or New York quite often and just only last year his paintings were offered 140 times at the global market. Maybe the foreigners didn’t bid it so much because the starting price was set up very realistically.

Does it mean that Czechs are not willing to spend as much money on foreign art as they spend on Czech art? So what does it say about Czech art market?

“I think that Czech collectors and Czech auction art market is very, very local. It means that Czech people are used to buy Czech painters and they are willing to pay really a lot of money for their works. It could be related to the forty years of isolation and maybe it is also related to the fact that usually Czech authors are available at the market. So this special French work has not fallen into their sphere of interest.”

Was it always like this, for example before the Second World War?

“No, the situation was totally different because we are sure that the work came in a private Czech collection during the First Republic. At that time the Czech cultural awareness was very strongly focused on the French artistic tradition. For example Vincent Kramar, who was a very famous collector of Czech art, started to assemble his private Cubist collection and maybe that was a sufficient impetus to collect also French art for many other Czech collectors.

But you would say that it is a specifically Czech thing that we are interested in Czech art rather than foreign art?

“I think that in Central Europe the situation is very, very similar. For example Russian people buy mostly Russian authors. The situation in Western Europe the situation is a little bit different because there is an open market for many, many years.”