Record prices for three artists at Irish art auction in London

Hughie O’Donoghue canvas fetches €109,557, while Cork Bowler by Gabriel Hayes sells for €95,000

New record prices for three artists were set at Sotheby’s Irish art sale in London on Tuesday.

A total of 106 works went under the hammer at the event in Mayfair, achieving €3.4 million.While all eyes were focused on works by Jack B Yeats, Roderic O’Conor and Louis le Brocquy, including two lots from cash-starved RTÉ, it was the last item at the sale that raised eyebrows.

The Owl Run, an extensive oil-on-canvas measuring 216.5cm by 247cm by Hughie O’Donoghue, a Manchester-born painter who spent much of his youth in Co Kerry, achieved €109,557 against a reserve of €17,000–€28,200.

A Sotheby’s spokesperson said this was a new record for the artist against his previous record at auction when in 2007 one of his works achieved €37,000.

Another lot to sell well beyond its asking price was Failing Better maquette III, a 161cm cast bronze sculpture by Rowan Gillespie, which achieved €80,255, almost four times its lower estimate of €22,600.

Cork Bowler by Gabriel Hayes – two bowlers at Lough Gur in Co Limerick – which came from the collection of former motorsport boss Eddie Jordan, achieved €94,949 against a reserve of €33,900–€56,500, marking a record price for the artist. The work was purchased by a US buyer.

Prior to the sale a leading figure in the sport of road bowling, the former Ból Chumann na hÉireann president Séamus Ó Tuama, appealed for a benefactor to come forward to purchase the painting for public display given its significance.

The third record set was for Joy Gerrard’s Flag, a Japanese ink-on-canvas of an anti-Brexit protest, which achieved €14,952 against an estimate of €5,700–€7,900.

Of the nine Jack B Yeats artworks, The Sunlit Page failed to sell having not met its lower estimate of €90,500, whereas The Man in the Moon has Patience achieved €379,390 against a €170,000–€282,000 reserve.

The highest-priced Yeats work was A Paris of the West which went for €787,964 against a reserve of €565,000–€905,000.

Three lots

Of the three lots submitted to the sale by RTÉ, George Campbell’s Symphony Orchestra was sold prior to the auction, and an announcement is expected in the next few weeks as to the buyer and the destiny of the painting.

Tain, a looped wood pile by Louis le Brocquy commissioned by RTÉ, went under the hammer at €102,143 (against a reserve of €79,000-€113,000) and the giant Aubusson tapestry The Massing of the Armies, measuring 30 square metres, also by le Brocquy, remained unsold having failed to reach its minimum reserve of €136,000. The final bid was €128,410.

Paul Henry was well represented with five paintings, one of which was pulled prior to the sale. Four west of Ireland landscapes included Errigal (€145,919), Showery Day (€70,000), Cottage by a Stream (€55,445) and Clare Island from Achill (€175,103). All prices include the buyer’s premium of 25 per cent.

Arabella Bishop, head of Sotheby’s Ireland, said it was “pleased with the strong results and robust international bidding”, and thrilled to see contemporary artists recognised amid three auction records.