The Czech art market has been thriving for the past few years and Czech auction houses have witnessed number of record sales. This weekend a Cubist painting "Girl in Pink" by the renowned twentieth-century artist Josef Capek was sold to an anonymous bidder for 12 million crowns (about 615,000 USD). It is the second highest sum paid for a painting in the Czech Republic. The Czech auction record for a work by Czech painter was set earlier this year by Frantisek Kupka's "Abstract Composition".
Almost exactly a year ago, the Galerie Art Praha auction house set a new Czech auction record, when it sold another Cubist painting by Josef Capek, "The Foot Bath", for almost 11 million crowns and broke for the first time in the history of Czech auction houses the ten million mark. This Sunday, it saw a new record. Although the starting price of the painting was set only at 2.2 million crowns, a record was expected, says Vladimir Neubert, owner of Galerie Art Praha.
"There aren't many Cubist pictures by Capek. He made a cycle of four pink paintings and all the other ones are owned by the National Gallery. So this is the only picture from his Cubist period that could be acquired. It is also unique because it connects Cubist form with lyricism and tenderness and it has a beautiful colour."
Josef Capek, brother of the famous writer Karel Capek, started as a painter of the Cubist school, but he soon left cubism and developed his own playful primitive style. He also wrote a number of plays and short stories together with his brother Karel and his illustrated stories for children are considered a classic of Czech literature.
But getting back to the "Girl in Pink", Vaclav Neubert told me more about its history.
"The Girl in Pink was painted by Josef Capek in 1916. The picture was bought by one of the biggest Czech art-collectors Josef Borovicka at Capek's studio in the 1930s. In 1959 the state secret police confiscated the picture and it was placed for the next 40 years in the Czech National Gallery. The painting returned to its owner, Mr Borovicka, in 1992."
Mr Neubert has no doubts that the current Czech auction record held by Frantisek Kupka's "Abstract Composition" will soon be broken again by another picture by the same artist. An oil painting is to be auctioned in October and its initial price is set at 12 million crowns.