'Nama' paintings raise $857,000 in NY


The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) successfully entered the international art market in New York last night when three paintings seized from failed property developer Derek Quinlan went under the hammer at a Christie’s auction in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza.

Two of the paintings sold – raising a total of $857,000; the third failed to sell.

The propitiously titled Dollar Sign by American artist Andy Warhol made $782,500 (€573,600). The painting, which measures 20in by 16in and dates from 1981, had an estimate of $400,000- $600,000.

The second Nama painting, titled Arches Cover by Robert Motherwell sold for $74,500 within its estimate of $60,000-$80,000.

However, bidding for the third painting, Ace Airport by Alex Katz stalled at $140,000 and failed to reach its estimate of $150,000-$200,000. The auctioneer said “that is not enough” and then passed on the lot.

The proceeds of the sale will be used to pay off some of Mr Quinlan’s huge bank debt which has been taken on by the Irish State. Mr Quinlan, a former tax inspector with the Revenue Commissioners, amassed a fortune buying and selling property during the Celtic Tiger boom.

Two years ago, he quit his Ballsbridge home and moved to a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland owing huge sums. His loans have been transferred since to Nama which, in an effort to recoup some of the money, seized various assets, including his private collection of 16 paintings.

Two of the seized paintings were acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland. Nama then asked Christie’s to sell the remaining 14 paintings at a series of auctions in New York and London. The three paintings offered in New York last night were all by American artists. The rest of the collection will be auctioned in London next week.

It is understood Mr Quinlan bought Dollar Sign from the Yello Gallery in Kinsale, Co Cork in 2006 in a private transaction for about €300,000.

It had previously been owned by the Italian fashion designer Enrico Coveri, who died in 1990 and then by his sister, Silvana Coveri.

Commenting on his painting of the dollar sign, Warhol once said: "I like money on the wall. Say you were going to buy a painting. I think you should take that money, tie it up, and hang it on the wall. Then when someone visited you, the first thing they would see is the money on the wall."