Who is the typical Czech art collector? Survey sheds light on Czechia's art buyer scene

The most common Czech art collector is a male who has been buying art for more than five years and already owns dozens of artworks, according to a newly released survey conducted by J&T Bank, together with art news site Artplus.cz. To find out more about who the typical investor in Czech art is and what the country’s art market currently looks like in general, I spoke to the head of Artplus.cz Jan Stuchlík.

"Well, instead of art ‘investors’, I would like to talk about art ‘collectors’, because the survey showed us that people buying art consider primarily the emotional value of an artwork and not whether it is a good financial investment. I think that they want to feel good, or intellectually challenged when looking at the piece of art that they want to buy or have bought.

"Then, they also consider how the particular artwork fits into their collection, because they really have a strong intention to create a collection that makes sense. Generally speaking, while thinking about art as an asset, or an investment is an important thing among collectors, but it is not why most of them buy art.

Photo: Jan Rasch,  J&T Bank

“What I could add is that, concerning the investment motivations, data showed us that people who have studied collecting art recently, over the period of the past three years, are more inclined to think about art in pure financial terms as part of their broader investment portfolio. Perhaps this is due to the coronavirus pandemic, or the general increase in inflation and them trying to find some assets that would guard their savings against inflation.”

Indeed, I don’t know about you but recently I have come across many youtube ads telling me i should protect myself against inflation by investing in art. Anyway, if we move on, I wanted to ask you what types of art are most popular right now among Czech art collectors?

“The most popular art is Czech art, which is obvious. However, we also fine-tuned our survey and divided the base of our respondents into two categories. We looked at ‘collectors’, who told us they are building a real collection, and pure ‘owners’, who just own some original pieces of art but do not have any ambition to create any sort of collection – they just buy it for their own joy and because it makes them feel good.

Photo: Jan Rasch,  J&T Bank

“Among both of these groups, Czech art is by far the most popular, especially the works of contemporary artists. Interestingly, owners choose contemporary art more often than collectors. Over 70 percent of owners and over 50 percent of collectors said that they own or collect contemporary art works.

"Then, among collectors, the second most preferred is the art created after World War II by Czech artists, followed by the works of modern artists during the interwar period.”

Do we know what type of art is most preferred? By these I mean whether its paintings, or sculptures for example.

“Yes, we did ask them and paintings were by far in the lead. More than 80 percent of collectors prefer paintings. It is also probably obvious that it is quite big. It can be the dominant in the interiors of their houses or flats.

"Also, there is a perception that paintings will most probably increase in value in the future.”

What is your view on what art is likely to become most valuable in the next five years? I am asking also because I noticed a slight discrepancy between the responses from collectors and art experts there. Specifically, in terms of the third most common answer – collectors said it will be the Czech classical modern period art movement, whereas collectors went with the interwar avant-garde.

Photo: Jan Rasch,  J&T Bank

“It is very difficult to say, but in terms of collectors perceiving the modern art created between the wars as the most valuable and the most likely to increase in value, I think that they appreciate these pieces because of their own views. They want to own something unique, something that is rare on the market and what is rare increases in value. That is the nature of market dynamics. Therefore, because collectors prefer post-war and interwar art, they probably also think and rely on this type of art to increase in value.

“However, when we asked dealers, they said that contemporary Czech art will be trending in the coming five years and that Czech contemporary artists pieces will appreciate most in value in the future.

In recent years we have seen some of the highest prices being paid for individual pieces of art. Most recently the record was broken in May of this year, when Bohumil Kubišta’s  Staropražský motiv (Old Prague Motive) was sold for a final total of 123.6 million crowns. Why do you think people are willing to spend more on Czech art and in terms of the survey results, what are the typical amounts that Czech investors are willing to spend for an art piece?

Bohumil Kubišta - 'Old Prague Motif' | Photo: Galerie Kodl

“Yes, you mentioned the historical record in terms of Czech art auctions. However, I think that those super high prices in dozens of millions of crowns are really quite exceptional. The majority of art pieces sold either at auctions or in galleries are much, much cheaper. This also corresponds to our findings, because the survey showed that, on average, 70 percent of collectors buy one piece of art for less than CZK 100,000.

"What we can also say is that the older the collector, the higher price he or she is willing to pay. I think that the survey simply stated what is common in the market. Buying art is not about spending millions of crowns on one piece. It is more about selecting the artist you like who speaks to you in a language that you understand and can buy for a reasonable price.”

Could you tell us a bit about how the Czech art market has developed since the 1990s?

“The 1990s were the sort of ‘roaring 90s’ of the liberal economy and this was also the case in the art market. However, I would say that over the past 10 or 20 years the market started to be much more professional. New, better educated buyers entered the market. Also, more people have the money to buy art and start their collections, because they got rich through their businesses or were high ranking managers who wanted to start collecting art. The selling side too, the auctioneers, the galleries professionalised themselves and the market got more transparent. Meanwhile, newcomers strengthened the demand.

“This has been seen on the development of the prices and on the turnovers of the auction market which has increased quite substantially over the past two decades.

“When it comes to the contemporary art scene and the galleries that sell to contemporary artists, over the past 10 years, I would say that there have also been more people willing to buy contemporary art. The galleries professionalised too.

"However, the contemporary art market is still developing and I think it will still take some time for it to get to the levels of Western Europe and the United States. This is where the development will go, I think.”

Two thirds of collectors also consider falsified art a major problem on the market. So how are attempts towards combating this problem developing?

“Falsified is an old phenomenon. It was always the case that the more people there were who could afford expensive art, the more criminals wanted to exploit their desire to own original artwork that could one day perhaps be sold and seen as a good investment.

“I think that reasonable and trustworthy dealers and auctioneers try to avoid letting falsified art enter the market, because they do it for themselves, their own reputation. They assess the provenance of the art in coordination with experts.

“I think that the situation is improving on the Czech market, for example when compared to the 1990s, but it’s still there. Collectors too try to avoid buying falsified art by relying on respected and trustworthy dealers.

“Interestingly a quarter of collectors mentioned that they hedge against buying falsified art by exclusively buying contemporary art, where the risk is quite small.

“We can also get back to education. The role of education really is very important. The more educated and sophisticated a collector is, the lower the risk that he or she would be deceived.”