Painting removed from auction
Dublin's best known fine art auctioneer James O'Halloran has become embroiled in controversy after artist Robert Ballagh sent a solicitors letter to his firm James Adams and Bank of Ireland demanding the withdrawal of his painting Woman with Barnett Newman from next week's sale of paintings from the bank collection.
Angrily rejecting the claim that selling the painting, which was one of a series first exhibited in 1972, was "cultural vandalism" Mr O'Halloran said his only interest had been to develop a market for contemporary artists.
"To be described as having any part in 'cultural vandalism' does not reflect well on what we have been trying to do over the years... we have done a huge amount to promote artists and I refute entirely any suggestions that we have done anything like that," Mr O'Halloran said from his office in St Stephen's Green in the centre of Dublin.
The painting has now been withdrawn from Adams prestigious sale of 'Works of Art from the Bank of Ireland collection' at the James Adams saleroom on Wednesday next.
The painting was originally bought by Dublin architect Ronnie Tallon from the Hendrick's Gallery on behalf of Bank of Ireland as part of the decoration for their new Baggot Street headquarters in 1972. He bought six out of the 20 paintings for between £150 (€175) and £600 (€700) -- including the contentious Barnett Newman, which cost €300 according to the catalogue.
But when the single painting was put up for sale after the bank decided to sell its collection Mr Ballagh objected and said through his solicitors Gore Grimes that it was part of an "integrated series" and selling it as a single item was a breach of his copyright and a "derogatory action."
He also said it was the sale of a single painting from the series was "irretrievably" breaking up the collection and demanded its withdrawal.