'Small victory' as Ballagh work removed from BoI sale
ARTIST Robert Ballagh was celebrating a "small victory" last night after Bank of Ireland (BoI) withdrew a piece of his work from an auction of bank-owned art due to take place next week.
The 67-year-old had accused BoI of "cultural vandalism" over its decision to sell off its collection of Irish art, including one of his own works, 'Woman With Banett Newman'.
The auction is planned for next Wednesday at James Adams Auctioneers on Stephen's Green, Dublin.
However, Ballagh told the Irish Independent last night he had been informed by BoI's legal advisers that his work was being withdrawn.
"I received a letter to say BoI had decided to withdraw the work in question from the auction so they could, in their words, 'further consider how best to deal with the work'.
"It's a small victory especially because I was an unwilling participant in all of this," he added.
BoI had intended to auction off 'Woman With Banett Newman', which is part of a larger piece by Ballagh called 'Figures Looking At An Exhibition', which the bank had purchased in 1972.
"This was intended as a single piece of art and they were going to sell it off in separate lots," said Ballagh.
The artist said he was still disappointed by the bank's decision to sell off other Irish works. "With all the money they have received from the taxpayer, the very least they might consider is donating their entire art collection to the Irish people," said Ballagh.
"Here is a major financial institution sending out the most negative of signals: off-load your art, it's not something to invest in and at a time when the arts in this country are on their knees."
BoI confirmed it had removed the piece from the auction. Dan Loughrey, head of corporate communications, said the decision was based on a number of representations received by the bank in relation to the work.
"This will give us time to consider the views expressed.
"The bank also previously announced it would make a donation to the national collection at IMMA of a number of works requested by Culture Minister Mary Hanafin," Mr Loughrey added. BoI said proceeds from the sale would be distributed to community-based arts organisations through the bank's community investment programme Give Together.
Works by Paul Henry, Louis le Brocquy, Basil Blackshaw, Patrick Collins and Norah McGuinness are included in the sale of 154 pieces, which is expected to fetch €1.3m.