Bonhams move on Irish art


The international market for Irish art has been boosted by the announcement of a new sales outlet in London

BONHAMS, one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques, has established a new Irish art department. Founded in 1793, Bonhams has traditionally held joint sales with Adam’s, Ireland’s largest auctioneers of fine art.

However, Bonhams said in a statement that after 12 years of working jointly on Irish art auctions, the two firms had decided to hold separate sales.

It is understood that the ending of their collaboration was amicable. Matthew Girling, Bonhams chief executive officer for Europe and the Middle East, said he was delighted that “we will now have our own dedicated Irish art department to celebrate the work of leading Irish artists”.

Jonathan Horwich, global head of pictures at Bonhams, said while the relationship with Adam’s had been a positive one,

Bonhams believes it can provide sellers of Irish art with an international window through its network of international offices and clients, from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.

The privately-owned British firm has headquarters in London’s New Bond Street, employs 700 people and maintains a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives.

Horwich expressed confidence in the market claiming that people across the world are looking to diversify and put their money into tangible assets such as art.

The new department is headed by 30-year-old Irishwoman Penny Day, a native of Portlaoise, graduate in History of Art from Trinity College Dublin, and holder of a Diploma in Fine and Decorative Art from Ireland’s Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV). She began her career with Christie’s in London before joining Bonhams in 2006.

Bonhams will hold its first sale exclusively devoted to Irish art in London next month. Many of the paintings in the sale have been consigned by collectors in Britain, Canada and the United States.

But there are some from Ireland, despite the shipping and insurance costs involved. Sellers – and buyers – also need to consider currency exchange rates as the sale is conducted in sterling.

Asked why Irish residents might choose to sell their art in London rather than at home, Ms Day said: “The advantage of selling in London is that there is more of a global reach. Advertising and exposure in the US and other countries has meant that much of the sale has been consigned through Bonhams offices worldwide and we expect international bidding to result in higher prices for our vendors.

In addition, the London art market has enjoyed a significant recovery with 2010 being one of our best years to date.”

She and Mr Horwich visited Ireland before Christmas to display some of the 107 works which will be offered in the inaugural Important Irish Art sale in London on February 9th.

Most of the paintings are new to the market and many have been owned by the same families since they were originally purchased.

Ironically, an item with one of the lowest estimates, (£1,500-£2,000/€1,780-€2,374) is attracting most interest. Roundabout Poniesis the last sketch drawn by Jack B Yeats two days before he died in a Dublin nursing home in March, 1957. He gave it as a gift to the matron and it is being sold by her heirs.

The sale also includes paintings by Basil Blackshaw, William Conor, Gerard Dillon, Felim Egan, Patrick Hennessy, Sir John Lavery, William Leech, Louis Le Brocquy, Edward McGuire, Norah McGuinness, Frank McKelvey, Tony OMalley, Daniel ONeill, Colin Middleton, Camille Souter and others.

The catalogue can be viewed online at and viewing begins at Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street on Sunday, February 6th.