UTV cashing in on its art collection

Fine Art auction: The Belfast-based TV company will sell paintings worth up to €300,000 in Dublin

Dublin auctioneer’s Adam’s is to sell UTV’s corporate art collection next month. The Northern Ireland television company is the latest business to divest of art. Adam’s has previously sold art from the collections of Bank of Ireland, the former Anglo-Irish Bank, Independent News and Media and the ESB.

James O'Halloran, managing director of Adam's, said UTV is selling because the company is moving to new offices in Belfast and will have less space. The company is keeping some of the collection but 100 paintings and sculptures, with a combined estimate of between €200,000 and €300,000, will form part of Adam's "Important Irish Art" auction in Dublin on September 27th. The collection provides a snapshot of the development of art in Northern Ireland throughout the 20th century and features work by some of the North's best-known artists of the 20th century, but also lesser-known names, reflecting the company's policy of investing in young artists.

The collection is an eclectic mix of work, predominantly paintings, drawings and prints by mainly Northern Irish artists, say O’Halloran. It traces its roots back to the founding of the company in 1959 when the first chairman, the Earl of Antrim, acquiesced to pressure from his artist wife, Lady Angela Antrim, to “get some pictures on the walls here because the place looks bare”. All aspects of life in Northern Ireland are addressed in this collection and it encapsulates not just a snapshot of its artistic heritage but is also a window onto the social, political, historic and architectural life of the province. The collection was, from 1988 to 2004, curated by the renowned art historian and author, Theo Snoddy, who died in 2008. UTV regularly lent pieces form the collection to major exhibitions.

The top lot is Laganside at Dusk by Basil Blackshaw [see pic] – the Co Antrim painter who died last year – which was commissioned in the late 1990s and shows Belfast's Waterfront Hall with a wide expanse of river and city skyline (estimated at €40,000-€60,000. Earlier this year, Adam's sold a portrait of the Hollywood star Clint Eastwood by Basil Blackshaw for €22,000 (considerably more than its top estimate of €15,000) to showjumper Cian O'Connor.


William Conor, the Belfast artist who died in 1968, is represented by The Launch [see pic], depicting a scene at the city's Harland and Wolfe Shipyards as a newly-built ship rolls down to the water, estimated at €20,000-€30,000; and The Street Meeting, which depicts three young women singing at an organ and surrounded by onlookers and participants, €10,000-€15,000.

Northern Ireland's best-known 20th-century sculptor is FE McWilliam, of Banbridge in Co Down, who died in 1992. The auction features his bronze Woman of Belfast III from his renowned Women of Belfast series of bronze sculptures inspired by the terrible impact on women of the IRA bombing of the Abercorn restaurant in Belfast in 1971 in which two young women were killed and 130 people – mainly women and children – were injured, many horrifically. It is estimated at €12,000-€16,000.

The so-called "The Belfast Boys" group of artists are well-represented – among them Gerard Dillon whose Artist in the Country depicting the artist, in Pierrot costume, standing at an artist's easel with a panoramic view of Inislacken Island beyond, estimate €15,000-€20,000 [see pic]; Colin Middleton whose Seated Woman (estimated at €10,000-€15,000) is described as "a superb example of his later modernist style" [see pic]; and Daniel O'Neill's Snow Scene at Knockalla, estimate €4,000-€6,000).

Other artists to feature include painters T Flanagan, Neil Shawcross, Cecil Maguire, Richard Croft, JB Vallely, Brian Ballard, David Crone, Brian and Denise Ferran and sculptors Carolyn Mulholland and Joseph Sloan who are all well represented in the collection with fine works.

Adam’s will preview the UTV Collection for a week at The Ava Gallery at Clandeboye, outside Belfast, from September 7th-14th, before the pieces move to Dublin ahead of the auction on Wednesday, September 27th. For more details and online catalogue see adams.ie