Arnold's art on the block


Developer David Arnold bought big during the boom and paintings from his art collection are now for auction in London

A COLLECTION of modern Irish art owned by property developer David Arnold is to be sold at auction in London in November. Arnold was one of the founders of D2 Private, a property investment and development company with offices in Dublin and London, with a portfolio in London alone worth a reported £1.4 billion in 2008. Arnold’s substantial bank debts have been taken over by Nama. He is now disposing of various assets.

Ten paintings owned by Arnold will be sold at an auction of British and Irish art at international auctioneers Bonhams at New Bond Street, London. The paintings will go on public display in Dublin ahead of the sale.

A spokeswoman for Bonhams declined to confirm that Arnold was the vendor, citing client confidentiality. The paintings are by artists including Colin Middleton, John Shinnors, Barrie Cooke, William Scott, Gerard Dillon and Norah McGuinness.

Last year Nama seized the art collection of Derek Quinlan, a one-time business associate of Arnold, whose huge property debts have also been taken over by the State.

Nama’s appointment of Christie’s to sell the Quinlan collection prompted complaints by leading Dublin fine art auctioneers that the contract was given to a “foreign” company. However, on this occasion, Nama did not appoint the auctioneer. It is understood that Arnold himself appointed Bonhams and Nama had “no objection” according to a spokesman, “as long as the paintings are sold on the open market”.

Although Bonhams does not hold auctions in Ireland, the company has a long association with the country, maintains an office in Dublin, and is one of the world’s top three fine art auctioneers along with Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

It is unclear how much money the sale will raise for Arnold and ultimately Nama. Bonhams has estimated the total value of the 10 painting in a range between €250,000 and €500,000. Arnold bought some of the paintings at Dublin art galleries – including the Solomon Gallery and the David Hendricks Gallery – and others at public auction at the height of the boom. But prices for modern Irish art have since plummeted by over 50 per cent and in some cases much more.

For example, a painting by Norah McGuinness The Little Harvest, Mayo which sold in 2006 in Dublin at auction for €210,000 has now been assigned a low estimate of €38,000 at Bonhams.

A painting by Northern Ireland artist Colin Middleton titled Muriel, which made €170,000 at auction in Dublin in 2005 could now sell for as little as €50,000.