“There is still a large group of people who prefer to see art in person”. An interview with Kama Zboralska of the Warsaw Art Fair.

Kama Zboralska is an art market expert, founder of the “Young Art Compass” and “Art Compass” rankings, academic teacher at, among others, the Media Art Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and an author of several publications focused on art. She’s been the programme director of the Warsaw Art Fair since 2012. The fair is one of the most important art events in Poland, organised annually in Warsaw to promote modern art. 

Andzelm Gallery, Jan Berdyszak, Catching the Space, 1972, oil on canvas, 99x137 cm, 50x137 cm
Andzelm Gallery, Jan Berdyszak, Catching the Space, 1972, oil on canvas, 99×137 cm, 50×137 cm

What are the demographics of art fairs in Poland? Do they consist mainly of experienced art collectors, or can you meet younger art aficionados as well? 

In just three days, our fair draws around 10,000 visitors. We host many different kinds of the art-world members: museologists, curators, collectors, auction house representatives and artists. Although the fair takes place in Poland, we do not limit ourselves to polish artists only, and we get a lot of foreign visitors . Due to the continuously rising interest in contemporary art, our fair is also visited by many young art lovers. For some time now, we have noticed a presence of a distinct kind of pride people take in owning a painting or a sculpture created by a respected artist. Sometimes the first purchase can be the beginning of a real passion for collecting.

The number of art fairs worldwide has increased to several hundred in the last twenty years. How can Polish fairs, such as the Warsaw Art Fair, stand out in the international arena and compete with giants such as TEFAF or Frieze?

The Warsaw Art Fair is an event operating on a completely different scale in every respect. It’s an event on a scale we can afford. Different prices and a different class of artists. For us, the organisers, it is important to maintain the high quality of art presented at the fair. It is definitely worth emphasising that the work of some of the Polish artists is of interest because of its uniqueness. For example, this year at Frieze Masters, London’s Richard Saltoun Gallery displayed Barbara Świderska Levitoux’s textiles, which were created in the 1970s and 1980s, completely independent of the Western trends.

Wejman Gallery, Hel Enri Feuillesoiseaux, 1958

The art world is slowly recovering from the pandemic. What impact have the events of the last two years had on the art market? Will the 18th edition of the Warsaw Art Fair look different than the previous ones?

In our country, in contrast to Western markets, there has been a significant increase in the sales of works of art. According to an report, the turnover in the Polish auction market in the first half of 2021 amounted to over PLN 264 million. That’s 72% higher than in the previous year! Almost 300 auctions took place, which is a 50% increase compared to the same period in the previous year. This situation was certainly influenced by the turmoil on the financial markets. At the beginning of 2020, interest rates fell to zero, at the same time the WIG [Warsaw Stock Exchange Index] lost almost 35% of its value during the first three months. Some investors turned to alternative investments. In addition, many people have been buying artworks online. As for the 18th edition of the Warsaw Art Fair, it will be held at the Warsaw EXPO XX1 exhibition centre for the first time.

Art galleries are, little by little, turning into virtual spaces, and making their offers available online. Does this pose a threat to traditional art fairs?

I don’t think so, at least not yet, and certainly not in Poland. There is still a large group of people who prefer to see art in person. Besides, fairs are a place to meet and create networks, not only professionally. Even the best online event can’t replace it. 

Kościelak Gallery, Wanda Gołkowska From the series Icons, No 8 2004 (detail)
Kościelak Gallery, Wanda Gołkowska From the series Icons, No 8, 2004 (detail)

What artists can be found at the Warsaw Art Fair? Is it mostly old masters’ art, or rather pieces by contemporary artists?

This year the fair is dominated by contemporary art galleries. There are only a few antique stalls with old and even ancient art, as well as the Bolesław Biegas Museum with a rich offer of this outstanding artist. The exhibitors will present artists such as: Jan Lebenstein, Jan Dobkowski, Teresa Pągowska, Stanisław Fijałkowski, Stanisław Krygier, Jan Berdyszak, Beata Czapska, Józef Wilkoń, while the young generation will be represented by Dawid Czycz, Tomasz Górnicki, Karolina Jabłońska, Karol Palczak, Agata Kus, Monika Chlebek, Łukasz Patelczyk.

What’s the role of educational events accompanying art fairs such as lectures, discussions or exhibitions?

The educational part of the Warsaw Art Fair is invaluable. There is still little knowledge about art in Poland and the fair seems to be an ideal opportunity to bring this world that makes everyday life less grey and monotonous closer to people. For many years, the Warsaw Art Fair has been accompanied by exhibitions of outstanding artists, such as Jacek Malczewski, Tadeusz Dominik, Tadeusz Kantor, Witkacy, Jerzy Nowosielski, Wojciech Fangor, Magdalena Abakanowicz.

This year, we’re going to show the works of a painter and sculptor Bolesław Biegas, who is currently known better in France than in Poland, as well as Andrzej Fogtt, who created works inspired by extraordinary Witkacy’s portraits. As part of its mission to promote art, the Warsaw Art Fair has for years invited experts (Rafał Kamecki), critics (Bożena Kowalska, Jan Michalski, Paweł Sosnowski, Piotr Sarzyński), and well-known artists (Rosław Szaybo, Andrzej Dudziński, Leon Tarasewicz, Krzysztof M. Bednarski, Daniel Rycharski) to give lectures. This year, due to sanitary restrictions we weren’t able to organise workshops led by artist Iwona Cur. They were very popular, and not only among children and young people. We will certainly bring them back.

Muzeum im. B. Biegasa, Bolesław Biegas, Dance of laughter, oil on canvas, 94x73,5 cm, 1922-1924
Muzeum im. B. Biegasa, Bolesław Biegas, Dance of laughter, oil on canvas, 94×73,5 cm, 1922-1924

Warsaw Art Fair 

27-28 November 2021

EXPO XXI, Warsaw, 
ul. Ignacego Prądzyńskiego 12/14

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About The Author


Art historian and art writer based in London. She is currently studying for an MA in art market and appraisal at Kingston University.

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