The Warsaw Voice » Other » Monthly - November 15, 2006
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Lessons in Art Market
Prof. Ksawery Piwocki, president of the Academy of Fine Arts (ASP) in Warsaw, talks with Przemysław Molik.

In early December, the ASP will host an art auction. How did the idea come about and what opportunities does it provide for ASP students?
The auction is a joint initiative by ASP and Art & Design, managed by Marek Pietkiewicz. What makes it different from other auctions is that the buyers will bid for the works of recognized artists, obscure artists and students. The project serves several purposes, including fundraising for the ASP library and for a prize awarded to a student from the Painting Department for an outstanding graduation work.

Another important aspect of the auction is the consolidation of the artistic community with the ASP at its center. This concerns recognized artists from Poland and abroad. It is important for their works to be brought together at one auction at the ASP.

We want to show young people who plan to become professional artists how to make a living out of art. Thanks to the auction, the students will learn the mechanisms of art trading, the prices on the market and so on. Taking part in the auction will provide them with professional knowledge about the importance of professional art traders. A trader who organizes auctions takes care of an artist's works and promotes the artist through, for example, a professional catalog, publicity in the media and so on. This has been the case in the West for a long time and things are now beginning to work like that in Poland too, although it is still not the rule.
Consequently, Marek Pietkiewicz's initiative plays a vital role here. Above all else, the auction in December demonstrates that the days when artists had to sell their works themselves are gone. Today, without the support of an art trader, a painter or sculptor is pretty much non-existent on the market.

What do students think of the auction?
They too have realized what a chance it is for them. They are even promoting the event through the ASP student council. After all, they are about to debut at an auction on equal terms with well-known, popular and recognized artists. Thanks to such initiatives, for a moment at least the world of contemporary art is not divided into adult and well-promoted art versus "small art"-young, worth discovering.

Does the ASP carry out research to find out what percentage of graduates take part in exhibition projects? How many make their living from art?
We do not have any precise statistics on this. However, we stay in regular touch with a lot of galleries that exhibit works by our students and graduates. We record such events in our publications and on the ASP website (

I would like to emphasize that it is a hard task looking after our graduates and being able to offer them assistance. Of course, the best graduates frequently receive prizes and scholarships from sponsors and the government.

From what we see, most of our graduates get swallowed up by the advertising market. This applies to graphic artists, painters and designers alike. We know most about what becomes of graduates from our Conservation Department. After years of devastation and negligence, the state authorities are finally becoming interested in the reconstruction of historic monuments, which results in jobs for our conservators with the most difficult projects that require the greatest expertise.

How does the ASP collaborate with academies in other countries?
This has been developing for many years and, of course, it really took off after Poland's EU entry. International student exchange projects, such as Socrates-Erasmus, and teachers' associations in a given branch of arts, such as Cumulus, enable our students to study abroad. Around 30 percent of our students receive part of their education abroad.

Students from many countries come to our academy, in turn. We see the highest interest in studying at the ASP from young artists east of Poland's borders-in Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states. Each project-exhibition, symposium and auction, boosts interest in the ASP. Perhaps it is worth cultivating interest in studying in Poland and at Warsaw's ASP among students in Asia, as such relations could bring a lot of intriguing results.

Tell us more about the auction.
It is divided into five sessions Dec. 1, 2 and 3. Everybody is welcome to take part in it. We are printing 10,000 copies of a catalog to present the auctioned works and the artists. The opening session on Friday, Dec. 1, will be followed by two sessions each on Saturday and Sunday-at noon and in the afternoon. Around 1,000 works by 100 artists will go under the hammer, including paintings, sculptures, graphic works and photos, as well as projects such as movies, documentation of artistic projects. In other words, all the media found in contemporary art. The auction brings together the creative output of generations of artists-professors, outstanding ASP graduates and students alike. The list of submitted works features artists whose names are regarded as the biggest, who are well known on the international scene.

We hope that the auction will become an annual event, held in early December, so as to start a new tradition at the ASP.

Art Auction: Dec. 1-3, Main Auditorium of the ASP in Warsaw, 5 Krakowskie Przedmieście St. All auctioned items will be on display as of Nov. 15 at the Aspekt Gallery, the fourth floor of the ASP President's Office, 5 Krakowskie Przedmieście St. (entrance from Traugutta Street).