Bank's art collection faces the market next week


The works of art being sold by the Bank of Ireland go on view from this afternoon

THE YEAR’S most eagerly anticipated art sale takes place at 6pm next Wednesday evening in Dublin when Adam’s will auction works of art from the Bank of Ireland collection. From this afternoon, the paintings and sculpture will be on display for public viewing at Adam’s showrooms at 26 St Stephen’s Green.

The sale is the first step in the disposal of the bank’s collection, which totals some 2,000 items, and the remainder will be sold at future auctions over the next few years. The announcement initially attracted some public criticism with suggestions that the entire collection should be taken into public ownership. A few artists also expressed concern that the market could be flooded, thereby depressing prices for their work. There was anecdotal evidence of public disquiet that a bailed-out bank might profit from the disposal.

But the controversy appears to have been defused. Bank of Ireland has reiterated that the proceeds of the sale “will be distributed to community-based arts organisations through the bank’s community investment programme”.

Secondly, Adam’s said that staggering the sale of the collection over the next few years would “ensure that there would not be a large number of works by one particular artist” coming onto the market at the same time.

And finally, calls for the entire collection to be taken over by the State seem to have been based on the presumption that the State would want it (evidently not) and that all the works of art are important for the national cultural patrimony (apparently not).

Earlier this month, Bank of Ireland allowed the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) to peruse the collection and take the pick of the crop. These works have now been donated to IMMA and, according to the Minister for Culture, Mary Hanafin, will “be available for public viewing and future exhibitions”.

As a consequence, nine works (five paintings and four pieces of sculpture) which were scheduled for sale next Wednesday have been withdrawn. Ironically, among them is a piece of sculpture, Green Linesby Alexandra Wejchert, used to illustrate the cover of the glossy €20 auction catalogue which may now become a collector’s item in its own right.

A tenth work, a painting by Robert Ballagh, has also been withdrawn. Although not saved for the nation by the what the minister described as the experts at IMMA, the Bank has received representations from the artist and, according to a spokeswoman, needs time to consider its fate.

Controversy aside, the bank’s collection now faces the ultimate test – in the court of public opinion and the dreaded markets.

Of the 145 pieces due to go under the hammer, some have estimates in the tens-of-thousands of euro range including paintings by Basil Blackshaw, Gerard Dillon, Paul Henry, Seán Keating, Louis Le Brocquy and Tony O’Malley.

But not everything is limited to high-rollers. Some lithographs, by Patrick Hickey, for example, have estimates beginning at €400 while some of the more affordable paintings include Still Life Study of Daffodilsby Rosaleen Brigid Ganly and Summer’s Day, Robertstown, Co Kildare by Fergus O’Ryan.

James O’Halloran, managing director of Adam’s, said there was significant public interest in the sale with demand for catalogues “double the normal”. The saleroom has capacity for 150 people but contingency plans are in place to accommodate at least the same number in an adjacent store room linked to the live proceedings. Live internet bidding will also be available.

O’Halloran estimates that the sale should raise “about €1 million”. Asked to predict which paintings might prove to be the star lots, he mentioned Out With The Netsby Gerard Dillon; Moorland Waterby Patrick Collins; Study Towards an Image of James Joyceby Louis Le Brocquy; and Blue Grey Cock Crowingby Basil Blackshaw.

He added that there was some very good sculpture including pieces by Gerda Frömel, James McKenna, Graham Knuttel and Michael Warren.

For further information about viewing times, auction bidding details and the catalogue see