RTÉ’s sale of Irish artworks
Sir, –You report that RTÉ denies that it will pay Sotheby’s a commission of 25 per cent on the sale of art from its collection, and that the commission it will pay is below the threshold which would require it to seek tenders (News, October 15th). This is RTÉ’s explanation for inviting only one auctioneer to tender for the sale, without getting quotes from Irish firms.
This denial is disingenuous to say the least. While RTÉ will not pay any commission as sellers, Sotheby’s charges 25 per cent commission to the buyer. Thus the contract is worth in the region of €100,000 to €150,000 to the UK auction house and is well above the threshold set by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) whereby tenders are required. Even if there was not a Government regulation to advertise the contract for tender, it surely behoves a State-owned organisation to seek quotations from Irish auction houses, which are, unlike Sotheby’s, licensed by the Property Services Regulatory Authority of Ireland (PSRA) to solicit and receive consignments for auction. As regularly reported in your newspaper, Irish art consistently sells better in Dublin and the three leading firms here auction about €20 million worth to collectors here and around the globe.
It is extraordinary that, before it embarked on this disposal, RTÉ did not consult the co-owner of the art, the Arts Council, which owns a 50 per cent share in the collection as it funded its purchase. This is especially relevant as the works were created especially for the iconic Television Centre. They form part of the fabric of this award-winning building, designed in the early 1960s by Michael Scott and Ronnie Tallon, who commissioned the site-specific art. Surprisingly this historic edifice is not listed by Dublin City Council as a protected structure; if it was, this disposal could not have taken place. – Yours, etc,