No sign of slump as bank's art raises €1m
IF it hadn't been decided months ago, you'd have thought it was this bank's last-ditch attempt to make a few quid for its owners.
But as rumours continue over whether troubled Bank of Ireland will be effectively nationalised as a result of the EU-IMF bailout, Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel hosted a sale of its vast art collection.
More than €1m was made from the sale of the 145 pieces as almost 1,000 people packed into the Shelbourne's 'Great Room' and bought like the recession never existed.
It was all for a good cause, though, as the cash raised will be donated to community-based arts groups.
Bank of Ireland had built up a vast collection of 2,000 paintings and sculptures. Last May the bank announced it was to sell off the bulk of the works over a five-year period.
However, the bank insisted there will be no similar large-scale sell-offs on the scale of last night, claiming that offloading such a huge amount of work would damage the art industry and devalue the works.
As the deep-pocketed punters began their bidding frenzy, 15 art students and graduates vented their frustration over the sale. Banners with the slogan 'Sack the bankers, not the art collection' greeted people as they entered.
"We're worried that while the country is in an economic mess the arts will be looked on as superfluous," Wilim Abrook, artist and graduate of Dublin's National College of Art and Design said.
"By selling it the bank is supporting the arts, but if they sell too much there's a worry the art will be thought of as excessive, because why else would you buy it?"
However, the disquiet didn't hinder the bidders, as paintings by artists Cecil Maguire and Patrick Collins were sold for thousands more than the original estimates.
Paintings 'Out with the Nets' by Gerard Dillon and 'Study Towards an Image of James Joyce' by Louis le Brocquy were snapped up for a cool €50,000 each, while 'Moorland Water' by Patrick Collins was bought for €38,000.
All but 10 of the pieces in the auction catalogue were sold last night.