My top 10 fine art and antiques events in 2012


It was the Chinese Year of the Dragon and the mythical creature provided the highlight of the year 

1 Antique of the Year

A Chinese imperial white jade seal sold for €630,000 at Sheppard’s Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois in November to an online bidder in China. The seal, subsequently dubbed the “Durrow Dragon” because of the carving, had a pre-sale estimate of just €4,000-€6,000. The price was not only the highest of 2012, but an all-time record for an item of decorative art sold at an antiques auction in Ireland.

2 Auction of the Year

Over 13,000 people flocked to Mount Congreve in Waterford in July to view the contents of the last fully-functioning Anglo-Irish mansion. During a hectic two-day sale, organised by Mealy’s in association with Christie’s, everything sold from the Rolls Royce to chandeliers for a total of €2.2 million. Liveried servants looked on as a way of life came to an end.

3 Auctioneers of the Year

Adam’s of St Stephen’s Green celebrated its 125th anniversary and celebrated it by achieving – for the second consecutive year – the highest price for a painting at auction in Ireland. Procession with Lilies by Louis le Brocquy (who died in April) sold, in September, for €320,000.

4 Collectible of the Year

A “wanted” card for Michael Collins, issued by the British authorities hunting the Big Fella in Dublin in 1921, sold at Mealy’s in April for €4,000.

5 Discovery of the Year

Irish Times reader Julian Deale (72), of Monkstown, Co Dublin recognised his late mother, Sally, when he saw a photograph in the paper of a Seán Keating painting of two previously unidentified women. He tried to buy Past Definite, Future Perfect at Whyte’s art auction in May but bidding exceeded his personal limit and he failed to secure the memento which sold for €42,000.

6 Collection of the Year

Bailed-out AIB Bank “donated” 39 paintings worth €5 million to the State and Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan decided they would, henceforth, form part of the permanent collection of the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork. Among the haul are pictures by Jack B Yeats, Seán Keating, Paul Henry and Roderic O’Conor.

7 Art ‘giveaway’ of the Year

The day after the sale, at Sotheby’s in New York, of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream for $119.9 million (€91 million) – a world-record price for any work of art at auction – an editorial in Britain’s Sun newspaper announced: “You’ll find your own cut-price copy on page 13 of today’s paper. So today you can hang it on your wall or better still someone else’s!”

8 Internet bid of the Year

A landscape painting by American artist Edward Hopper, titled October on Cape Cod, sold for $9.6 million at Christie’s in New York, a world record for any item sold to an online bidder at any international auction house and confirmation of the web’s growing influence in the art market. A growing number of auctions in Ireland and worldwide are now broadcast live on the internet and offer online catalogue browsing and bidding.

9 Trend of the Year

The sell-off of boom-time bling gathered pace. Dublin jewellery auctioneer John Weldon reported women selling jewellery “because they needed the money to pay school fees” and said “it is a real sign of the times when you see pieces bought in Harrods and by Fabergé ending up being pawned and those pieces will be sold for a fraction of the price paid”. With Minister for Justice Alan Shatter eyeing up “diamond bazooka” rings ahead of the Personal Insolvency Bill, many more such sales are likely.

10 Job of the Year

According to the Daily Telegraph: “The Queen has advertised for a maid who is good at cleaning antiques, running baths and taking care of jewellery and can travel to Balmoral – all for £273-a-week.”