Prague flagship antique fairs starts with local and foreign buyers boosting market

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One of the Czech Republic’s flagship antique fairs has just started in Prague’s New Town Hall. And, from a hesitant beginning and some difficult recent years, it looks like the Czech market is picking up again thanks to interest from local as well as foreign buyers.

The 36th Antique fair in Prague kicked off on Thursday with around 60 exhibitors this time round for the Autumn show and crowds lining up outside the historic building to get in. That’s a big advance from the first exhibition staged around 20 years ago when there were just around a dozen exhibitors taking part.

And it looks like the fairly small Czech antiques market is enjoying better times, helped by a growing economy and with the low level of the Czech crown making many local items attractive for foreign buyers. Simona Šustková is deputy president of the Czech association of antiques dealers.

“The interest of Czech buyers is growing in the area of Czech paintings because it is also a very good investment. So people know that and they trying to look for some very interesting paintings and some very interesting names of painters and they are investing their money in these paintings. It is very typical for the Czech market and they are mainly buying Czech authors.”

Simona Šustková, photo: Eva Dvořáková
Most of the money in the Czech antiques market is in paintings with a handful of Czech artists, mostly the Czech modernists such as František Kupka, still setting record auction prices. The market for objects of art, such as art deco sculptures, glass, and furniture, trails a long way behind with regard to the price tags demanded and turnover at stake.

But Simona Šustková says that the local arts market is evolving and some late nineteenth century paintings and works are now back in vogue and in demand.

“Three, four, five years ago, there were growing prices for authors from the 1930s and 1940s from the twentieth century. And now there are very good results from authors [painters] from the end of the 19th century, that is the classical painters. It’s good. They were not sold very well in the past and now it is a lot better.”

Illustrative photo: Magdalena Hrozínková
And some art dealers have recently set up in Prague with the target of profiting from that resurgence and also developing Czech interest in paintings from the 18th and 17 centuries, which are both relatively new markets. For them, foreign buyers, such as rich Russians, still represent a much larger part slice of buyers.

Although many Czech works of art were destroyed during the Communist era and many were sold or slipped across the border during that period, Simona Šustková though says there are still many treasures in family lofts and in house or flats which could come onto the market in time if the conditions continue to improve.