Kupka painting sets new auction record

Elevation IV

In May of this year "Abstract composition" - an oil on canvas by the Czech-born abstract artist Frantisek Kupka - fetched a record price at auction 13.4 million crowns (over 642,000 US dollars). That record has now been broken - not surprisingly by another of Kupka's works.

Photo: CTK
You could have heard a pin drop at the Prague Art Consulting auction house on Sunday when Kupka's 1938 abstract painting Elevation IV went to an anonymous bidder for 22.1 million crowns or 1,130,000 US dollars. The auction house director Jiri Rybar said he was delighted with the sale.

"The sale has surpassed our expectations even though foreign experts put the value of Elevation IV at approximately one million euros, that's more than 28 million crowns. Even so we are delighted. On the Czech art market this is an exceptional price."

Photo: CTK
The Czech art market, crippled by four decades of communism, is slowly regaining strength. Art historian Magdalena Jurikova says that it is waking up from a long slumber.

"It will take time to fully revitalize the market. In the years of the First Republic the atmosphere at auction houses was fantastic. There were so many people in the country who understood and appreciated art. Affluent industrial leaders but also people from the upper middle classes -doctors and lawyers - assembled incredible art collections. Czech auction houses are now living off those collections."

In the communist years Kupka's works were thought to reflect "imperialist ideology" and were kept hidden in depositories or the homes of private collectors. Today his paintings are shown by prominent art galleries around the world and he is undoubtedly the Czech Republic's most highly-valued painter. Elevation IV was put up for auction by a private collector. The painting is not listed as a national heritage item and could therefore be exported. However, the head of the auction house Jiri Rybar says that he does not think this will happen since its new owner is a Czech collector who wishes to remain in anonymity.