Over €2m spent in Dublin summer art auctions

Paul Henry and Jack B Yeats are still the top names

Summer may have just begun but all three main Dublin art auctioneers have already wrapped up their summer sales. So, as the half-way point of 2016 approaches, what’s the state of the market?

The traditional names – and most especially Paul Henry and Jack B Yeats – continue to dominate the Irish art market as they have done for decades.

Bidders at Adam’s, de Veres and Whyte’s spent over €2 million.

At de Veres on May 25th director Rory Guthrie said the summer sale had realised a total of €650,000 with 80 per cent of lots sold. This was the "first time for a long time that we noticed a competitive kick in the market".

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The top lot was A Riverside Inn by Jack B Yeats (€66,000) while the number two slot was The Ferry Boat by Jack B Yeats (€61,000). Third was Still Life With Apples on a White Cloth by Roderic O'Conor (€55,000). Guthrie said since the auction they had sold eight of the unsold pictures "which brings the overall sold rate to 85 per cent".

On Monday evening at Whyte's auction in the RDS, the sold rate was 80 per cent with a total of €850,000. Here the top two lots were by Paul Henry: 'Connemara Landscape' (right), a quintessentially traditional image of thatched cottages, turf stacks and cumulous clouds, that made €100,000, while West of Ireland Road Through The Bog sold for €82,000. (For more prices see auction results, right).

Auctioneer Ian Whyte said he was pleased with the attendance at the auction "despite the good weather" and that the two Paul Henry paintings had been bought by a private collector in Co Clare.

Mr Whyte said the market was “buoyant” but there was “a shortage of quality paintings because many people with good paintings don’t want to sell – because capital gains taxes are too high and there’s nowhere to put the money if they do sell as deposit interest rates are so low”.

He said there is “ongoing strong demand for paintings by Yeats, Henry, Lavery and Orpen” but little supply.

Following Wednesday evening's "Important Irish Art" auction at Adam's in St Stephen's Green, director David Britton said "despite the current heatwave, viewing and attendance at our auction was good with competition in the room and on the phones for many lots". He said 85 per cent of the lots sold totalling €540,000.

The top lot was By Drumcliffe Strand Long Ago by Jack B Yeats (above), a painting formerly owned by Lord Killanin which sold for €80,000 "on the phone to a client bidding from Europe".

Another Jack B Yeats entitled The Birds are on the Move, previously owned by the late Guy de Keller, a former Swiss ambassador to Ireland, "sold for €55,000 to a client bidding in the room".

Mr Britton said this “shows that demand for Yeats’s oils is still strong here in Ireland and abroad”.

A rare scene of Dublin by Paul Henry entitled Grand Canal Dock, Ringsend sold for €27,000 (€20,000–€30,000). It had failed to to sell at Adam's in December 2014 when it was offered with an estimate of €30,000–€50,000. However, on this occasion the estimate had been cut to €20,000–€30,000.

The next big auction featuring Irish art is at Bonhams "Modern British and Irish Art" sale in London on June 15th. The top Irish lots include, predictably, Lough Corrib from Glenadda by Paul Henry (estimate £40,000–£60,000); and Single File by Jack B Yeats (estimate £30,000–£50,000).

Whether at home or abroad, for the Irish art market it's a case of "plus ca change, plus c'est la même chose".