Boom time for Irish art sales as exhibition proceeds jump 37% to post-crash high

Noted increase for more expensive items but curator frets over possible Brexit impact in 2020

Artist Fergus Ryan with his subject Kassandra Karema and the resulting portrait of Kassandra, which he submitted for a 189th RHA annual exhibition this year. Sales at the exhibition hit a post-financial crash high. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Artist Fergus Ryan with his subject Kassandra Karema and the resulting portrait of Kassandra, which he submitted for a 189th RHA annual exhibition this year. Sales at the exhibition hit a post-financial crash high. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Sales at Ireland’s bellwether exhibition of art hit a 11-year high this year, with a significant jump in demand for more expensive pieces.

The Royal Hibernian Academy runs Ireland’s largest and longest running annual exhibition of visual art. Now in its 189th year, the RHA this year attracted 56,000 visitors between May 21st and August 10th to the gallery on Dublin’s Ely Place, also a 10-year high for the gallery.

Half of the 504 piece of art sold for an aggregate of €557,458, a figure that was 37 per cent ahead of sales in 2018 and the first time since 2008 that the €500,000 threshold was breached.

RHA curator Ruth Carroll said that a noted change this year was the increase in interest in pieces valued at more than €10,000, where sales were up more than half on the previous year.

“The RHA annual [exhibiton] has always been regarded as a barometer for domestic art sales and a definite upturn reflects well on the sector as a whole,” Ms Carroll said. But she was cautious about the outlook for next year “with the threat of an unquantified Brexit, and the economic and cultural implications” that would have.

Daragh Murphy, business development director at show sponsor Quilter Cheviot Europe, said the group’s involvement was “a great way to support Ireland’s thriving arts scene”.

A total of 343 artists were represented at this year’s event, which attracted 238 buyers. Paintings and drawings accounted for almost 60 per cent of exhibition items but there was an increase this year in the amount of sculpture on display.