Polish contemporary art has been recognized and valued worldwide for more than a decade now. We have also been increasingly eager to invest in young artists’ works. What to consider before making a choice? Where should we look to find the most interesting names?
Ewa Juszkiewicz, Straw hat (after Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun), 2012, oil on canvas, 165x120 cm, ART TANK COLLECTION
I can easily list several dozen of living Polish artists who have achieved major success on international art markets. Each year, a few thousand students graduate from art schools, but only a handful have a good chance of making their way outside Poland. Who makes this call? How to select those who really stand a chance for international recognition from among so many newcomers?
Contrary to what is believed, the career path – or the so-called “endorsement process” – is fairly similar for all young artists. Already as students, young artists may take part in art competitions. There are many out there, but only some of them are truly opinion-forming and take pride in having a long and distinguished tradition and a prestigious jury. In Poland, such competitions primarily include the Hestia Artistic Journey, the Painting Biennale “Bielska Jesień”, the Eugeniusz Geppert Painting Competition, or the “Views” Awards. It is thanks to such competitions that some artists, e.g., Martyna Czech, Tomasz Kręcicki, or Krzysztof Maniak, are beginning to make a name for themselves and attract the attention of curators and collectors.
Professional rankings have a similar function of creating hierarchies to competitions. The most popular one – published each year by Rzeczypospolita daily – is the Young Art Compass. Throuought the recent years, among the top artists according to the Compass were Ewa Juszkiewicz, Bartosz Kokosiński, Wojciech Bąkowski, Radek Szlaga, or Norman Leto.
Tomasz Kręcicki, Falling, 2017, oil on canvas, 120x120 cm, courtesy of the artist
However, one of the key career triggers for every young artist is to begin an exclusive collaboration with a professional contemporary art gallery. The role of such an institution is invaluable. It is the gallery that organizes exhibitions, promotes works of art at fairs, publishes catalogs, and sells artwork. There are about 40 of such fully professional contemporary art galleries in Poland. These institutions continuously invest in the artists they represent. Therefore, the moment an artist gets under the wings of a gallery also marks a jump in the prices of his or her works which usually double.
One of the most spectacular examples of such a surge in prices that I have observed in recent years is the dynamic development of Ewa Juszczykiewicz’s career. In 2013, the artist was represented by Lokal 30 art gallery and was just qualified for the final phase of the 41. Painting Biennale “Bielska Jesień”. One day before the announcement of results, I called Agnieszka Rayzacher, an art-dealer who represented Ewa. Our conversation wasn’t smooth, as Agnieszka was just on her way to Bielsko. I, on the other hand, thought to myself that if such a busy person is going to Bielsko to participate in the announcement of results, this must have meant good news for Ewa. I immediately reached out to one of the clients of Wealth Solutions, which was where I worked at that time, and whose taste I had known. I offered to hold Ewa’s painting „Straw hat” (as inspired by Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun) for him. Back then the price was PLN 12,000. Just imagine how happy we were when it turned out Ewa actually won the competition. Later, in 2014, the artist was featured in the prestigious publication “100 Painters of Tomorrow” and was invited to participate in an exhibition curated by Maurizio Cattelan in Palazzo Cavour in Turin. She was also selected to participate in the third part of the popular series “Vitamin P”. For two consecutive years, she has been ranked first in the Young Art Compass. Already in 2015, the prices of her large-format paintings reached PLN 50,000–60,000, and this was only the beginning of the career of the then 31-year old artist.
When watching young artists, I recommend taking into consideration not only our subjective aesthetic impressions but also some hard facts of their biographies: the competitions they’ve won, the exhibitions they’ve taken part in, galleries with which they collaborate, and also the albums or collections that feature their works. May this, however, never overshadow our pleasure of discovering art.
Ewa Juszkiewicz, collage on paper, 2013, 30 x 23.5 cm, courtesy of the artist and the Lokal_30 art gallery Ewa Juszkiewicz, The Improvisatrice, collage, 2017, courtesy of the artist and the Lokal_30 art gallery
Ewa Juszkiewicz, Untitled (after Wassily Kandinsky), 2015, oil on canvas, 100x120 cm, courtesy of the Lokal_30 gallery
Tomasz Kręcicki, Lips, 2017, oil on canvas, 100x140 cm, ART TANK COLLECTION