However, Jacek Malczewski’s painting “Reality” will go on sale. The auction house announces that, as originally planned, it will be put up for auction on Thursday. Due to the ongoing investigation, its sale will be conditional. The prosecutor’s office is investigating, on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, whether the work could have been illegally taken out of the country in the 1950s.
Representatives of the DESA Unicum auction house announced that Jacek Malczewski’s “Reality” will take part in the “Old Art. 19th Century, Modernism, Interwar” auction on December 8th. Its auction at the turn of November and December was questionable, because investigators became interested in the fate of the work. The prosecutor’s office is investigating its origin after the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage reported that the painting may have been illegally exported from Poland after World War II.
In connection with the ongoing investigation, the Warsaw-Śródmieście District Prosecutor’s Office issued a decision to secure the painting and transfer it to the deposit of the National Museum. The painting was to be transported to the institution’s headquarters twice. Ultimately, however, no transport took place. First, DESA Unicum did not allow the work to be published because the museum workers did not have a suitable box to transport it, and the second time the box turned out to be too big. In the meantime, the auction house tried to obtain permission to leave the painting for safekeeping at Piękna Street. Ultimately, the District Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw agreed to this, repealing the earlier decision.
The painting will be “conditionally sold”
The painting remains formally seized by investigators, but will nevertheless go on sale. The auction house explains in a statement sent to our editorial office that the transaction will be “conditional”. “This means that DESA Unicum will conclude a preliminary sale agreement with the winner of the auction. The transaction, transfer of ownership and release of the painting will take place when all doubts as to its provenance and legal status are dispelled, but not later than within one year from the date auction,” it said.
But what if the investigation takes more than a year from the date of the auction? Then the auction house intends to terminate the preliminary sale agreement. “In such a case, the parties to the contract will waive the right to compensation for not concluding the final contract” – explained. The auction house also ensures that “no participant in the auction will be held legally responsible for taking part in and winning the auction”. Its representatives believe that the conclusion of a preliminary contract will not be a prerequisite for investigators to demand the transfer of personal data of a potential buyer.
“DESA Unicum Auction House maintains its earlier position that it has no doubts about the legal provenance of this object, and considers the suspicions about the painting raised by the Minister of Culture to be absurd and completely unfounded” – it was emphasized.
“Reality” can be a picture record holder
“Reality” is the highest-priced object of Thursday’s auction. It was estimated that its price could range from PLN 14 to 22 million, which would make it the most expensive work of art sold in Poland. So far, the most expensive painting sold in Poland is this “Two Married Women” by Andrzej Wróblewski. It was auctioned at the end of 2021 for PLN 13.44 million. Previously, the most expensive painting sold was a work “M22” by Wojciech Fangorsold for PLN 7.4 million in December 2020, and the most expensive work of art “Crowd III” – a work of Magdalena Abakanowicz consisting of 50 figuressold for PLN 13.2 million in October 2021.
The painting by Jacek Malczewski, one of the most outstanding painters of Polish symbolism, was probably created in 1908. It is oil on canvas measuring 115 by 209 centimeters. Historically, it was also referred to as “Polish Nativity Scene” and “Stańczyk”. It was presented for the last time in 1926 at the artist’s jubilee exhibition in Lviv. For almost a hundred years, the fate of the work was unknown. Employees of the auction house found them in a private collection in Germany. They described that before 1939, a Polish-German family who had moved after World War II from the then Polish People’s Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany came into possession of the painting. As stated, her departure probably took place around 1954/1956 as part of the family reunification campaign. During the move, the painting was also taken away – as resettlement property. DESA Unicum maintains that it has documents confirming the history of the work’s origin.
Main photo source: TVN24