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Wednesday 24 April 2019

Auction paints a poor picture for art market in tough times

Jason O’Brien and Fiach Kelly

Jason O'Brien and Fiach Kelly

AUCTIONEERS were left slightly disappointed last night as the final tally from a major art sale came in below expectations, suggesting that paintings and antiques may not be a safe haven for investors during a recession.

Although the organisers of the Irish art sale at Whyte's had initially hoped for a total take near the €3m mark, early estimates indicated that about €1.5m worth of art was sold last night, with buyers picking up about three-quarters of the 170 lots on offer.

But the headline pieces still managed to attract big money and Paul Henry's 'Evening in Connemara' fetched the top price of €106,000, slightly above its estimate of €90,000 to €100,000.

Kenneth Webb's 'The Tears of the Mountain' proved a surprise hit and was bought for €25,000, well above its estimate of €8,000 to €10,000.

Much of the crowd at last night's auction was made up of people playing the art market on a smaller budget, and a few managed to catch some bargains.

"A number of the paintings came in below their estimates," Ian Whyte, managing director with the Dublin auction house, said.

"It would mainly be small investors, mainly people with anything from a few thousand to maybe €50,000," Mr Whyte said.

"I tend to say to people who are buying for investment that they should look at it as a very long term investment, a minimum of five years and preferably 10," Mr Whyte added.

"Usually I say to them to look for established names. Obviously you don't get much for your money if buying a Yeats, but you still have options. You can pick up a Le Brocquy for €30,000 or less, you can get works by artists like William Crozier for in or around €15,000."

The sale came as a new book on the world of the Irish art market called 'Sold!' by journalist John Burns was launched in Dublin last night.

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