Fotograf Magazine

Survey: Photographic turbulences on the art market

The art market is talking about 2022 as a peak year, with an unprecedented increase in interest in buying art. How do you feel about last year and what did it mean for art photography sales?

Lenka LindaurováArt critic and curator

I have noticed that with the onset of the economic crisis, there is a growing tendency to invest in art, which I see as a positive development in society. However, the medium of photography is still very marginally represented on the official market. Auctions specialising directly in photography offer works well below the cost and without specifying the number of originals. On the contrary, some auction houses with a regular clientele are able to sell photographs at unreasonably high prices, which appear untrustworthy. The overall offer is qualitatively very unbalanced and shows that it is not based on careful research and knowledge of the field. Another negative of the local market is the general distrust in the medium of photography. There is a lack of active education of the general public, as well as the inability of exhibition institutions to place photography as an equal medium in the context of art as such.


Vladimír Birgus / Photographer, photography historian and curator

Last year can be considered a very turbulent one in the field of photography sales. While it did see two high-breaking eleven-year-old auction records (the only existing original Man Ray photograph, 1924’s Ingres Violin, sold for $12,412,500 and Steichen’s 1905 photograph The Flatiron Building sold for $11,840,000), these successful sales of classics stand in contrast to the unusually high percentage of unsold photographs at last year’s auctions. Market interest in general is increasingly shifting to more contemporary work. Not only are the numbers of essential works from the pre-World War II period dwindling but with them also the number of qualified collectors able to discern the differences between period originals and later enlargements. 

Contemporary Czech photography, unlike the best works of Drtikol, Sudek or Funke, is not significantly represented on the international market in higher price categories, probably because there is a lack of sufficient presentation at foreign photography fairs, whether we are talking about galleries or the artists themselves. Among the exceptions are the works of Josef Koudelka, which were offered by several galleries at last year’s Paris Photo fair for 30,000 to 50,000 euros. 


Delfina JałowikHead of Art Department, Main Curator, MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow

In Poland, last year’s significant increases in the art market are visible primarily through the huge number of stationary and online auctions of contemporary art, including young art. There is also an interesting offer of post-graduate studies and courses on collecting and the art market, addressed to collectors and non-professionals. In my opinion, photography is an interesting alternative to buying paintings. It is still significantly cheaper, i.e. more affordable for a wide audience who does not have a huge shopping budget.

On December 4, 2021, a new seat of the Museum of the History of Photography was opened in Krakow – the only museum of this type in Poland devoted entirely to the photographic medium. This will certainly have a significant impact on building the position of photography as an art medium equal to the traditional ones, such as painting or sculpture, and will help educate current and future collectors.