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The unparalleled record-breaking Polish auction market
2019 was the year of records on the Polish art market.

WARSAW.- The art market in Poland is one of the major segments of alternative investments. Only in the last three years it has grown by more than 80%. It is these recent years that have been crucial for the development of the Polish art market. In 2014, the turnover of the Polish auction market was only over USD 21 million (PLN 77 million). The year 2015 saw a breakthrough. The turnover increased to nearly USD 30 million (PLN 115 million), which was almost 35% more than in the preceding year. The most expensive object at that time – a painting by Wojciech Fangor – did not exceed the limit of PLN 1 million. Only four years later, in October 2019, the most expensive piece of art ever sold in Poland was bought for USD 2 million (PLN 8 million).

In 2016, the turnover increased by 35% and reached the amount of USD 40 million (more than PLN 167 million). That year, nine transactions of over PLN 1 million were completed. In 2017, the turnover already exceeded the amount of USD 60 million (PLN 200 million). Thirty-one objects were sold for over PLN 1 million – that is 240% more than in the year before. In 2018, the market grew by another 17.6%. For the first time on the Polish art market the annual turnover of a single entity exceeded USD 25 million (PLN 100 million). The success was achieved by DESA Unicum auction house, which at that time held nearly 46% of shares in the art market. The second place was taken by the Polswiss Art auction house, which achieved the result of PLN 53.6 million (more than USD 14 million) and over 21% of shares in the market. In 2018, for the first time the number of auctions that took place within a year exceeded 300.

2019 was the year of records on the Polish art market. The turnover on the auction market amounted to nearly USD 77 million, which had never happened before. A record number of auctions was organised – 337. That is over 30 auctions more than in 2018. During these events, 16,842 objects were sold. In Poland, more than 46 companies are involved in organizing art auctions. In terms of the value of sales, three auction houses constitute 3/4 of the market. 51.5% of the auction turnover on the Polish art market was generated by DESA Unicum auction house, while 18.5% was produced by Polswiss Art and 8.1% by Agra-Art. More than USD 2 million was paid for “Caminando”, an installation by Magdalena Abakanowicz, during the “Modern and Contemporary Sculpture” auction at DESA Unicum. It is the most expensive piece of art ever to be sold at an auction in Poland. It is also the highest-priced work of this artist in the world. This year in June, Tate Modern gallery in London will host an exhibition devoted entirely to the works of Magdalena Abakanowicz. But one more record was beaten at this auction. More than USD 1.4 million was paid for Antonio Canova’s “Dancer with Finger on Chin”, making the sculpture the most expensive work of 19th century and modern art ever sold in Poland.

In 2019, also for the first time in history, a Polish auction house made it to the top ten of the largest entities of this type in Europe. DESA Unicum was ranked 9th among the largest auction houses in Europe, according to a report drawn-up by the New York-based market research company Artnet. Only a year ago it was ranked 11th on the same list. DESA Unicum has beaten many famous auction houses from Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia, including Koller Auktionen AG, Kunsthaus Lempertz and Bukowskis Stockholm.

As far as the structure of the Polish market is concerned, just like in 2018, contemporary art holds a pole position. 49.9% of the auction turnover was generated by contemporary art. The most expensive piece of art was the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz. In the preceding year, this record was held by Wojciech Fangor’s painting “M39”, which was sold for over USD 1.2 million (PLN 4.7 million). 46.5% of the turnover was generated by 19th century and modern art and 3.6% by the present-day art and the art of young artists.

“The Polish art market is developing rapidly. For the first time in history, the barrier of PLN 150 million sales generated by one auction house was crossed. It is noteworthy that three years ago such amount was reported for the whole market. Paintings invariably dominate on the auctions and the sales of paintings constitute 81.5% of the market value. The number of sculptures sold has grown significantly; this branch of visual arts is becoming more and more popular among collectors. Nearly 10% of the transactions deal with this discipline of art. Most of the credit goes to outstanding artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz and Alina Szapocznikow. 3.2% of the turnover was generated by drawing and graphic arts, 2.5% by handicraft,” states Rafał Kamecki, the President of – an independent portal dealing with the art market which prepares annual charts of results on the Polish market.

In Poland, the segment of the market consisting in art sales started to develop at the turn of 1988. It has been growing rapidly during the last 30 years. Research show that the prospects for the upcoming years are very promising indeed. According to, over 205 sale transactions included in the ranking of 1000 largest transactions in the history of the art market took place in 2019. The total number of works sold for the amount of over PLN 1 million exceeded one hundred.

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