Mid-year report: The Irish art market is doing well but could do better

Sat, May 31, 2014, 02:00

It is almost mid-point in the 2014 auctions calendar and the results from two major art sales in Dublin this week suggest that the Irish market is recovering from the slump which followed the economic crash of 2008.

At Adam’s Important Irish Art auction, on Wednesday, 90 per cent of lots sold and managing director James O’Halloran said afterwards “there was a ‘fizz’ in the saleroom that’s been missing for some time”. He noted that “the average sold rate at Adam’s over the last few years has been about 80 per cent, so this marks a new high and suggests once again that the demand for fresh, well-provenanced quality works is at a new high.”

Earlier in the week, at Whyte’s Important Irish and International Art auction, in the RDS on Monday, 75 per cent of lots sold and managing director Ian Whyte said that bidders from 14 countries outside Ireland had participated via the internet.

Deepwell Collection

at Adam’s

The top lot in Adam’s was a painting by Roscommon-born Impressionist artist Roderic O’Conor, a French landscape titled Chemin Mènant à Grez which made €210,000 within the estimate (€150,000-€250,000).

The painting was from the collection of the Reihill family, owners of the fuel importing business Tedcastles, and had hung in the dining room of their house, Deepwell, in Blackrock, south Dublin which they sold earlier this year.

It was one of four paintings by O’Conor in the collection which went under the hammer. Of the other three, a Landscape with Garden and Mountain sold for €36,000 (€35,000-€45,000); a Landscape with Trees, Nueil-sur-Layon made €25,000 (€50,000-€70,000); but, a nude, Le Drap Blanc (€60,000-€80,000) failed to sell.

Among other highlights from the Deepwell Collection: a tapestry by Louis le Brocquy, Cúchulainn IV (number two from an edition of nine) sold for €120,000, double the highest estimate (€40,000-€60,000); and an oil-on-board painting, The Port Authority by Seán Keating, made €80,000 (€80,000-€120,000). There was a very strong price, €97,000, achieved for an oil-on-canvas titled Beero by Northern Irish artist William Conor. The painting, which depicts a group of Belfast coalmen drinking in a dockside pub, dates from 1956 and was commissioned by the Reihill family from the artist. The estimate was €30,000-€50,000. A Dusty Rose by Jack B Yeats, bought by the Reihills in 1944 for £55, sold for €62,000 (€50,000-€70,000).

Other Adam’s highlights

Aside from the Deepwell Collection, other highlights in the sale included Passenger Line Black by Seán Scully which made €80,000 (€40,000-€60,000); Gerard Dillon’s Footing the Turf made €29,000 (€30,000-€50,000); and a French colonial-era Moroccan scene, The Market Place, Tangier by Aloysius O’Kelly, made €9,500 (€4,000-€6,000). Frank McKelvey’s Running Home From School, soared above the estimate, €6,000-€8,000, and sold for €18,000.

Adam’s said €1.58 million was spent in the sale.

Strong internet bidding at Whyte’s

The impact of internet bidding was more evident at Whyte’s on Monday where almost every lot in the sale of Irish and International Art attracted bidders online competing with auction-goers in the saleroom and on the telephone. Overall, 75 per cent of lots sold for a total of €850,000 and 29 per cent of winning bids were from online bidders in locations as diverse as Canada, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

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