In a year like no other, the first lockdown saw a huge number of sales postponed on the fine art and auction circuit. Sales were pushed to the back end of the year which explains why the bulk of high-value results were in the past three months – in particular in the first week of December when important art sales took place.
Coronavirus did however force most auction houses to turn to online sales, and the previously unconverted were both surprised and delighted with the results.
Rathmines-based Herman Wilkinson began online sales – a first for the house – in spring, and it hasn't looked back since. Oliver Usher in Kells appeared to be the last of the auctioneers to switch to online sales and he says it was the highlight of his year as it opened up a much wider client base.
O’Reilly’s on Francis Street in Dublin hosted a 48-hour timed sale in March which it says was a great success and it is the business model that the auction house will use for the foreseeable future.
And what a year to start a new auction house, but Alan Conway and Ken Shorthall of South Dublin Auctions did exactly that in July when they commenced their weekly sales in Walkinstown.
Adam’s on St Stephen’s Green was down a third on the number of sales but sold rates were higher in every category with some auctions recording up to 90 per cent – pre-Covid levels would have been closer to 80 per cent. Its two recent jewellery sales generated €2.25 million, with many lots selling well above their estimates and sale rates in the recent mid-century auction above 86 percent.
NOTABLE RESULTS IN 2020
Whyte's Fine Art, December
Walter Osborne, A Tale of the Sea, €315,000 (€300,000-€400,000); Paul Henry, The Blue Hills of Connemara, €240,000 (€200,000-€300,000), The Stony Fields of Kerry, €200,000 (€90,000-€120,000) and Killary Bay Connemara, €140,000 (€150,000-€200,000); Jack Butler Yeats, Sculling, €190,000 (€200,000-€300,000); Louis le Brocquy, Image of Picasso, €140,000 (€150,000-€200,000).
De Vere's, Irish Art, December
William Scott, Still Life with Frying Pan, €200,000 (€200,000-€300,000); Paul Henry, West of Ireland Landscape, €330,000 (€120,000-€160,000) and Turf Stacks and Mountains Co Kerry, €75,000 (€60,000-€90,000); Jack B Yeats, Kerry Fisherman, €100,000 (€100,000-€150,000) and The Gaiety Theatre, Romeo and Juliet, €195,000 (€100,000-€150,000); Patrick Scott, Gold Painting, €115,000 (€60,000-€90,000).
Adam's, Fine Jewellery, December
Mario Buccellati Sapphire set cuff, €46,000 (€15,000-€25,000); 7.36ct diamond ring, €40,000 (€40,000-€50,000); Fred Paris gem and diamond bracelet, €28,000 (€15,000-€20,000).
Fonsie Mealy, Rare Book Sale, December
With hand coloured and other plates, Rosellini (Ippolito) I Monumenti dell Egitto e della Nubia, vols. I, II, & III €24,000 (€5,000-€7,000); Bloody Sunday first anniversary gold medal, €18,000 (€4,000-€6,000) and James Joyce Ulysses first edition €9,500 (€7,000-€9,000).
Adam's, St Stephen's Green, Important Irish Art, December
Jack B Yeats, Sleep by Falling Water, €265,000 (€150,000-€200,000); Walter Osborne, Loiterers, €90,000 (€40,000-€60,000); Daniel O'Neill, Flora, €58,000 (€8,000-€12,000); Louis le Brocquy, Mille Tetes Aubusson tapestry, €54,000 (€50,000-€80,000); Donald Teskey, Coastal Report I, €35,000 (€12,000-€16,000).
Adam's, St Stephen's Green, Mid-Century Modern, December
Anne Madden, Sight Line II, €31,000 (€8,000-€12,000); Cian McLoughlin, Dido and Gogo, €30,000 (€6,000-€10,000) and Pozzo and Lucky, €14,500 (€6,000-€10,000); Mark Francis, Raman, €15,000 (€15,000-€25,000); Sean Scully, Watercolour €14,000 (€10,000-€15,000); Costela Rib Chairs, €9,000 (€6,000-€8,000) and Zelouf and Bell, Four Seasons cocktail cabinet, €8,000 (€10,000-€15,000).
Sheppard's, Residue of Castlehyde sale, November
Hannibal Lecter mask, €85,000 and Chinese celadon vase, €1.2 million (€800-€1,200).
Adam's, St Stephen's Green, Townley Hall sale, October
Two Kildare House giltwood chairs, €18,000 (€10,000-€15,000); pair of Meissen porcelain exotic birds, €4,400 (€800-€1,200); silver samovar, €4,400 (€3,000).
Adam's, Fine Jewellery sale, September
Fred Paris diamond cuff bracelet, €60,000 (€60,000-€80,000); Cartier coral, pearl and gold sautoir necklace, €40,000 (€12,000-€18,000); diamond ear clips, €40,000 (€45,000-€50,000); 18ct gold Pearlmaster Rolex watch, €30,000 (€30,000-€40,000).
Adam's, Important Irish Art, September
Paul Henry, Hay Stooks with Cottages, €100,000 (€50,000-€70,000); Jack B Yeats, Bound for the Islands €90,000 (€50,000-€70,000); Paul Henry, Connemara Landscape, €70,000 (€30,000-€50,000); Louis le Brocquy, Uccello Aubusson tapestry, €65,000 (€30,000-€50,000).
Sotheby's, Irish Art, including collection of Michael Smurfit, September
A world record was set for Gerard Dillon, with The Dreamer achieving £378,000 (€418,773) against a reserve of £100,000-£150,000. Gerard Dillon, Tory Island, £44,100 (£18,000-£25,000). Two John Butler Yeats sketchbooks £13,860 (£2,000-£3,000).
O'Reilly's, fine jewellery sales, September-November
Diamond three-stone ring, €26,500; Tiffany solitaire ring, €9,400 and mid-century three-stone diamond ring, €9,200.
John Weldon, Jewellery sale, August
Set of National Volunteer medals found while clearing out a shed, €10,000 (€100-€200).
Adam's, St Stephen's Green, Fine Wine and Spirits sale, August
Chateau La Mission Haut Brion Grave 1961, €29,000 (€12,000-€16,000). Vosne Romanee Le Suchet 1945 11 bottles, €16,500 (€700-€900).
Adam's, St Stephen's Green, Works on Paper, August
WB Yeats, The Tower, €9,500 (€2,000-€3,000); Patrick Pearse letter, €5,500 (€5,000-€7,000); Ortelius Irlandae Acurata Descripto, €4,200 (€3,000-€5,000).
Damien Matthews, Dr Slattery Castlepollard sale, August
Exceptional pair of original antique bronze figures, €3,750.
John Weldon, Temple Bar, June and July
2.04ct diamond solitaire ring, €10,900; art deco diamond bracelet, €11,200.
Fonsie Mealy, collectors sales, May and July
The Incredible Leonard McGrath, medal collection, €28,500 and Incunabula, a landmark in Irish printed literature, €20,000.
Whyte's, Eclectic Collector sale, July
1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, €190,000 (€100,000-€150,000); 1798 Theobald Wolfe Tone's speech from the dock, €42,000; rare Irish silver porringer, €40,000; archive of letters, photographs and ephemera of Count John McCormack, €40,000.
Adam's, St Stephen's Green, At Home sale, July
A Dictionary of the Chinese Language, Robert Morrison, €12,000
RJ Keighery, June
Pair of extra-large planters, €2,400
O'Reilly's, Fine Jewellery sales, May-August
Bvlgari ruby and diamond ring, €35,000; diamond solitaire ring 3.44ct €24,000.
O'Reilly's, Fine Jewellery sales, January-April
3.05ct diamond solitaire ring, €25,000; 2.70ct diamond solitaire ring, €21,000; five stone diamond ring, €30,000.