Who is the typical Czech art collector? Survey sheds light on art buying scene in Czechia

A recently published survey conducted by J&T Bank (CZ)

“Well, instead of art ‘investors’, I’d like to talk about art ‘collectors’, because the survey showed us that people who buy art look first and foremost at the emotional value of a work of art and not if it is a good financial investment I think they want to feel good or have intellectual difficulties when they look at the work of art they want to buy or have purchased.

“Then they also think about how the particular piece of art fits into their collection, because they really have a strong intention of creating a collection that makes sense. Generally speaking, while considering art as an asset or an investment is a big thing among collectors, but that’s not why most of them buy art.

Photo: Jan Rasch, J&T Bank

“What I might add is that when it comes to investment motivations, the data has shown us that people who have studied art collecting recently, within the last three years, are more likely to think the ‘art in purely financial terms as part of their broader investment portfolio. This may be due to the coronavirus pandemic, or the general increase in inflation and the fact that they are trying to find assets that would protect their savings against inflation.

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

“The most popular art is Czech art, which is obvious. However, we have also refined our survey and divided our respondent base into two categories. We looked at ‘collectors’, who told us they were building a real collection, and pure ‘owners’, who only own a few original works of art but have no ambition to build 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

“Of these two groups, Czech art is by far the most popular, especially works by contemporary artists. Interestingly, owners choose contemporary art more often than collectors. Over 70% of owners and over 50% of collectors reported owning or collecting contemporary art.

“Then, among collectors, the second favorite is art created after World War II by Czech artists, followed by works by modern artists from the interwar period.”

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

“Yes, we asked them and the paintings were by far in the lead. More than 80% of collectors prefer paintings. It’s also probably obvious that he’s quite tall. It can be the dominant one in the interiors of their houses or apartments.

“Furthermore, there is a perception that the paintings will most likely increase in value in the future.”

What do you think of the art likely to become the most valuable over the next five years? I’m also asking because I’ve noticed a slight difference between the responses of collectors and art experts out there. Specifically, regarding the third most common answer – collectors said it would be the classic Czech art movement of the modern period, while collectors opted for the avant-garde of the in-between- wars.

Photo: Jan Rasch, J&T Bank

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

“However, when we asked the dealers, they said that contemporary Czech art would be in vogue in the next five years and that pieces by contemporary Czech artists would gain the most value in the future.

In recent years we have seen some of the highest prices paid for individual works of art. More recently, the record was broken in May this year, when Staropražský motiv (Old Prague Motive) by Bohumil Kubišta 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, according to the survey results, what are the typical amounts that Czech investors are willing to spend on a work of art?

Bohumil Kubišta - 'Old Prague Pattern' |  Photo: Kodl Gallery

“Yes, you mentioned the historical record in terms of Czech art auctions. However, I think these super high prices in tens of millions of crowns are really exceptional. The majority of artwork sold at auction or in galleries is much, much cheaper. This is also consistent with our findings, as the survey showed that on average 70% of collectors buy an artwork for less than CZK 100,000.

“What we can also say is that the older the collector, the higher the price they are willing to pay. I think the survey just indicated what is common in the market. art isn’t about spending millions of crowns on a single piece, it’s about selecting the artist you like, who speaks to you in a language you understand and can buy at a reasonable price.

Could you tell us a bit about the evolution of the Czech art market since the 1990s?

“The 1990s were a kind of ‘Roaring 90s’ of the liberal economy and it was also the case of the art market. However, I would say that over the last 10 or 20 years the market has started to be much more professional. New, better educated buyers have entered the market. Also, more people have the money to buy art and start their collections, because they got rich from their businesses or were high-ranking managers who wanted to start collecting art. On the sales side too, auctioneers and galleries are becoming more professional and the market is becoming more transparent. Meanwhile, new entrants are bolstering demand.

“This has been seen in the evolution of prices and in the turnover of the auction market, which has increased quite significantly over the past two decades.

“In terms of the contemporary art scene and galleries selling to contemporary artists, over the last 10 years I would say there have also been more people willing to buy contemporary art. Galleries are also becoming more professional.

“However, the contemporary art market continues to grow and I think it will still take time for it to reach the levels of Western Europe and the United States. That’s where the development will go. , I think.”

Two-thirds of collectors also see forged art as a major problem in the market. So how are attempts to combat this problem developing?

“Forgery is an old phenomenon. It has always been true that the more people there were who could afford expensive works of art, the more criminals wanted to exploit their desire to own original works of art that perhaps one day could be sold and considered as a good investment.

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

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

“Interestingly, a quarter of collectors mentioned that they protect themselves against buying forged works of art by buying exclusively contemporary art, where the risk is quite low.

“We can also go back to education. The role of education is really very important. The more educated and sophisticated a collector is, the less likely he is to be deceived.

Norma D. Ross