The first took place at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) in 1967 and comprised the work of the 50 ‘best’ living artists of the time including Francis Bacon, Willem De Kooning, Joan Miró, Ben Nicholson and Pablo Picasso. The New Yorker described it as “one of the boldest and most illuminating international exhibitions of modern art ever held…”
A sizeable 4ft 3in x 4ft 7in (1.3 x 1.4m) oil painting, Mastiff (Cwajnos) was among the works included, painted in the same year by Polish artist Tadeusz Brzozowski (1918-87).
He was a member of the Krakow Group and the international ‘Phases’ movement of painters inspired by Surrealism and non-geometric and lyrical abstraction. The hallmarks of a top Brzozowski – distorted forms, intense colour, strongly emphasised textures and a mysterious title inspired by old Polish words – were all present in Mastiff (Cwajnos).
Over 50 years later after ROSC it returned to the RDS on March 9 as part of a sale of Irish and international art at Dublin saleroom Whyte’s (20/13.5% buyer’s premium). It came from a private collector in Ireland who had acquired it well in excess of its modest €1000-1500 guide for €90,000 from Adam’s of Dublin in 2007.
Offered at Whyte’s with an €80,000-100,000 guide, it drew competition once more and was knocked down to a private collector in Poland for a sale-topping €190,000 (£167,000). The sum equals the auction record set in November 2017 by Desa Unicom in Warsaw for Pretzels (1959), a well-known Brzozowski canvas exhibited at MOMA in the 1960s.
Overall, the 200-lot sale at Whyte’s totalled €1.1m and was 82% sold. The auction house said it was a “fine start to the art auction season” despite the “inclement weather” and concern over the impact of the coronavirus that had begun to grow at the time.
£1 = €1.14