So who buys art these days?


Even during a long period of economic uncertainty, art is seen as a secure investment

WHO CAN AFFORD to buy art in Ireland’s current grim economic climate? “A lot of people,” according to Galway-based Dolan’s Art Auction House, which specialises in “affordable art” and is holding an auction of paintings in Limerick tomorrow. Niall Dolan, the founder and head of the auctioneering firm, says, “There’s still a lot of people with money and they want to invest it in something secure. Many of them are spotting value in pictures at the moment.”

Dolan says, “People are nervous about where they have their money and are wary of the stock exchange and even of deposits.” He describes buying art as “empowering”, explaining that “anyone buying shares is usually dependent on someone else, usually a stockbroker, to advise them, but when they decide to buy a painting they often rely on instinct and trust their own judgment”.

The people who attend his regular art auctions usually know what they’re looking for, he says. Many are couples aged between 35 and 70. Some are first-time buyers and others are regular customers.

During the past 12 months he has noticed that “paintings in the €3,000 to €6,000 range are getting easier to sell and more people are looking for them” while, perhaps surprisingly, “pictures in the €300-€400 range are getting harder to sell unless the quality is good”. Commenting on the venue, he said, “Limerick has a strong tradition of painting and a discerning art-buying public.”

The sale features work by Limerick artists including Jack Donovan, Charles Harper, Geraldine O’Brien, Tom Greaney and Henry Morgan. It also includes paintings by nationally known artists who are perennial favourites, including Mark O’Neill, Graham Knuttel, Markey Robinson, John Kingerlee, Norman Teeling and Thelma Mansfield.

The highest-priced painting in the sale is Window Bouquet by Mark O’Neill, which is featured on the cover of the catalogue and is estimated at €4,500-€5,500.

There are almost 200 lots, which can be viewed today, from 10am to 9pm, and tomorrow until the auction begins at 3pm at the Castletroy Park Hotel on the Golf Links Road in Limerick. Most of the paintings have estimates in the hundreds or low thousands of euro.