Rosy picture for Irish art as RHA exhibition sales rise by a third

Annual show sees 42 per cent increase in number of pieces sold

Diana Copperwhite, whose work ‘Fake New World’ was the most expensive piece sold at this year’s RHA exhibition. Photograph: Frank Miller

Interest in Irish art is increasing, according to figures from the annual exhibition of Dublin's Royal Hibernian Academy. Sales were up by almost a third this year at the event where more that 372 artists exhibited their work.

A total of €485,095 worth of Irish art was sold at the show – the highest figure since 2008 – compared with €366,000 last year, according to data released by the RHA. The 2014 figure had marked the first significant evidence of emergence from the period of austerity that had seen the market for Irish art shrink dramatically.

While sales were in the region of €720,000 in the years leading up to 2007, the average sales between 2010 and 2013 had been just over €290,000.

The annual show at the gallery, founded under a royal charter in 1821, is now in its 185th year and is one of the largest exhibitions and sales of art in Ireland.


Sustained confidence

Daragh Murphy, business development manager at Quilter Cheviot, which supports the RHA, said the recent trend was “indicative of sustained confidence as the economic recovery leads to some evidence of increased spending of disposable income” and of continued interest in art as an investment.

More than 80 per cent of the pieces sold at the RHA exhibition this year did so for less than €2,000, with just 3 per cent of the works sold commanding a price of between €5,000 and €10,000 and 1 per cent selling for sums in excess of that figure.

This contrasts with the figures ahead of the financial crash when 6.5 per cent of work sold fetched more than €10,000 and just 57 per cent cost less than €2,000,

Ruth Carroll, exhibitions curator at the RHA, said the increase in sales in recent years was seen as a positive indicator of a growing art market.

“This year, the RHA saw a marked increase in total sales compared to the last number of years and, more importantly, a sharp spike in the number of pieces sold,” she said.

Highest-priced sale

The most expensive piece sold at the exhibition was Diana Copperwhite’s Fake New World.

Overall, there was a 42 per cent increase in the number of pieces sold.

Close to half of the works on display sold, with Irish photography was proving to be extremely popular with new and existing buyers, Ms Carroll said.

The RHA sale attracted more than 51,000 visitors this year, more than double the 25,000 who attended in 2008.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times