Spring season for Czech auction houses starts off with a bang

Emile-Antoine Bourdelle - Heracles Archer

The Czech Republic's art and antique auction houses certainly have a season to look forward to if this year's opening auction at the Dorotheum auction house in Prague is anything to go by. Three records were broken on Saturday. Items valued at 14 million crowns (a little over half a million US dollars) were sold for 22 million (around 900,000 US dollars), the best turnover that the country's established houses have ever witnessed.

Saturday also attracted a record 300 potential buyers, opposed to the average 200. A Baroque wardrobe valued at 180,000 crowns was auctioned off for a staggering 2 million crowns (83,000 US dollars), a record in the category of furniture. Dita Asiedu met up with Dorotheum's Dr. Maria Galova to see what lies behind this record-breaking start to the season:

"I think one reason is that the world art market is booming now so the prices are growing and also the number of people interested in the art and would like to invest in it is much higher than two to four years ago. A second reason is that the items offered are of a very high level."

Most listeners who hear about auctions would think of London, Paris, or New York but not of Prague. What's the tradition like in this country?

"It's a little bit difficult because we do not have a tradition really. Of course, during the Communist period everything was interrupted. There was a big tradition before the 1950s but we didn't start it again until 1990. We can say that we started from zero. At the time the turnover on the Czech market was around 50 million crowns (a little over 2 million US dollars) and now it is around 300 million crowns. So it's somewhere totally different now."

Of the 300 clients that you had, what percentage is Czech?

"About 50 percent."

So what kind of people bid for items here? Is it art collectors, entrepreneurs?

"All of the groups you mentioned. Mostly, they are collectors but some of them are investors and others are people who are just interested in art, and there are many people from abroad who are dealers and owners of auction houses."

What are some of the main items that were auctioned off on Saturday?

"The biggest and most important was Emile-Antoine Bourdelle's famous Heracles Archer sculpture. It is in collections in New York, at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, and also at the National Gallery here in Prague. We bought a smaller copy, which had belonged to someone since the 1940s and the person now decided to sell it."

If I remember correctly then it was valued at over half a million crowns and was auctioned off at over four million...

"Yes. It was bought for 4.7 million crowns, which is an almost unbelievable price on the Czech market."

Can you tell us who purchased it?

"We don't want to say who the owner is but we can say that it will remain in the Czech Republic."

For more information on the auction results and the Dorotheum auction house, please visit www.dorotheum.cz.