Irish art buyers keep it real

Abstract art is a hard sell in Ireland where collectors prefer traditional, representational art

Maiden Hurdle, Clonmel by Peter Curling, €15,000-€25,000 at Whyte’s

Maiden Hurdle, Clonmel by Peter Curling, €15,000-€25,000 at Whyte’s

Sat, Nov 16, 2013, 01:00

This week’s auctions of post-war and contemporary art in New York saw vast sums spent by bidders at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for paintings by artists including Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter. But Irish collectors have never really taken to abstract art which many seem to view with a mix of fear and loathing. For anyone prepared to take the plunge, however, Dublin auctioneer Ian Whyte believes “there is great value in abstract art”. He said: “If people are looking for bargains [in art auctions] then they should look at artists such as Tony O’Malley, John Shinnors and Louis le Brocquy whose prices have suffered the biggest fall” since the end of the boom. Paintings by all three are included in Whyte’s Irish Art Auction which goes on view next weekend in the RDS ahead of the auction on Monday, November 25th.

Whatever about “value”, what most Irish art collectors and investors seem to want is traditional representational art by blue-chip artists such as Paul Henry, Roderic O’Conor, Jack B Yeats, Sir John Lavery, Walter Osborne and Aloysius O’Kelly.

As usual, these are the names expected, to make the top prices. Paul Henry leads the field with three oils including The Lake (€80,000-€100,000), a classic 1928 west of Ireland landscape.

Other highlights include portraits of 1920s beauties by Sir John Lavery: Mrs E Bowen-Davies (€30,000-€50,000) and Mrs Ralph Peto (€15,000-€20,000); Breton Woman In A Kitchen by Aloysius O’Kelly (€25,000- €35,000); Nude In The Studio by Roderic O’Conor (€25,000- €35,000); and The Village Street, Rush & Lusk, Co Dublin by Walter Frederick Osborne (€15,000-€20,000).

In stark contrast, the abstract lots include Tony O’Malley’s Clare Island Greys (€15,000-€25,000); and Mainie Jellett’s Death of Procris (€30,000-€50,000) described as “an example of her adaptation of the theories of rotation and translation learned in Paris and put into practice in this large oil”.

Contemporary art doesn’t have to frighten the horses. Maiden Hurdle, Clonmel by Peter Curling, who Whyte’s describe as “Ireland’s foremost equestrian artist”, depicts the Co Tipperary racecourse, artistic licence permitted the appearance of Slievenamon. Of the jockeys depicted, only one represents a specific portrait, that of Willy Mullins (second rider from the right), a friend of the artist. The estimate is €15,000-€25,000. A Portrait of Ulick O’Connor, the writer and broadcaster, dating from 1975, by artist Edward McGuire has an estimate of €8,000-€10,000.

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