‘It’s bedlam on auction days but we enjoy it’
Adams Blackrock don’t do online sales. It’s all about the action in the room
Sean Keating's charcoal drawing of an Abbey Players rehearsal
The south county Dublin village of Blackrock is currently getting quite an upwards facelift. From the perspective of the N11, the whole area appears to be soaring skywards. The Frascati Centre is nearly doubling in size; Blackrock Shopping Centre is being revamped from the inside out, beginning with a new facade and entrance.
Walk along the main street, however, and you’ll find that it retains its traditional village feel. One business which has been around since 1947, when Thomas Adams moved his saleroom to Blackrock from Shankill, is the auction room known locally as Adams Blackrock. It has been owned by husband-and-wife team Martina Noonan and Bryan Greene since 1986 - and despite a recent upgrade which streamlined and brightened the saleroom, they like to do their auctioneering the old-fashioned way.
“It’s bedlam here on auction day,” Noonan says. “We believe in keeping it simple: you either buy at the auction, or you don’t. We enjoy the almost theatrical aspect of the live auction, with buyers using paddles but keeping their cards close to their chests.
“Our catalogue is online, but so far - although we have clients in New York, all over Europe, and even in Australia - we don’t do online bidding. For us it has always been a very personal business, and we want to keep it that way for as long as we can.”
Every sale, she adds, has its own character. The current auction, which is viewing this weekend, contains a large number of paintings. Tucked away in family collections, many of these haven’t been seen for years. One consignment included three Markey Robinsons and a Maurice Wilks which were discovered in an attic. “The owner genuinely didn’t realise what they had,” Noonan says. Barbara Warren’s portrait of a depiction of a Mediterranean village came to Blackrock directly from Ibiza (Lot 26, €700-€900), while a collector of contemporary art consigned a Louis le Brocquy “Gold Mask” aquatint (Lot 24, €2,000-€3,000) and an abstract composition by the 20th-century Bulgarian artist Elvire Jan (Lot 25, €1,000-€2,000).
All styles and media are represented, from Frank McKelvey’s bucolic Tending the Boats (Lot 117, €4,000-€8,000) to Sean Keating’s charcoal drawing of Lennox Robinson directing the Abbey Players (Lot 42, €1,000-€1,500). There’s a jewel-like Colin Middleton, Northhampton (Lot 128, €1,800-€2,500) and a tiny but lively pen-and-wash drawing by Jack B Yeats, The Whirly Horses (Lot 277, €2,800-€3,500).
But this is also an interiors auction and among the furniture to come under the hammer are a Victorian giltwood overmantle mirror in a carved foliate frame (Lot 151, €800-€1,200), a large Chesterfield sofa (Lot 87, €500-€800), an early 20th-century Chinese rug on a blue ground with a royal blue border (Lot 339, €500-€700) and an early Victorian oak coffer (Lot 115, €200-€400). There are some fine pieces of jewellery, including an Edwardian brooch in the shape of a butterfly set with sapphires, rubies and pearls (Lot 257, €800-€1,200).
Adams Blackrock, 38 Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin. Interiors & Fine Painting Auction, Tuesday, October 2nd, 11am. Online catalogue, viewing times and bidding details at adamsblackrock.com