Thursday 14 December 2017

BoI to sell its €4m art collection Proceeds of 2,000 pieces will go to charity

Bank of Ireland's Anne Matthews with a Michael Farrell painting which the bank is selling
Bank of Ireland's Anne Matthews with a Michael Farrell painting which the bank is selling

Joe Brennan

Bank of Ireland has decided to flog its art collection, estimated to be worth more than €4m, over the next five years.

Richie Boucher, chief executive of the group, told staff in an email yesterday that the proceeds of the sales would be given to charity.

The money would be little help to the bank as it sets out to raise €3.5bn in new capital.

Bank of Ireland (BoI) began dabbling in Irish art in the 1970s and went on to develop one of the largest and most impressive corporate collections in the country.

In recent years, the group has donated its more significant pieces -- including works by Jack B Yeats, Paul Henry, Louis le Brocquy and Robert Ballagh -- to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

The bank has been left with about 2,000 pieces -- including other works by Camille Souter, Basil Blackshaw and John Behan.

"We now feel the collection needs to be put to work in a more tangible fashion," Mr Boucher said, adding that the remaining collection would be sold on a phased basis over the next five years.

"The proceeds from the sales will be added to our existing community and charitable investment programme, Give Together, to further benefit the many good causes that we support in our local communities," he said.

The news is likely to pile pressure on Mr Boucher's rival, Colm Doherty at Allied Irish Banks (AIB), to hoist the for-sale sign over its 3,000-piece collection of paintings, sculptures, tapestries and photographs.

The collection, which has been a source of huge pride for the institution for the past 30 years, includes works by Roderic O'Connor, Jack B Yeats and Patrick Collins.


It was reported that AIB's art collection was worth more than €80m, but the bank said this figure was exaggerated.

A spokesperson said the value of the collection stood at about €15m in 2008, but that "values have dropped dramatically since then as a result of the economic crisis".

When asked if AIB planned to sell its collection, the spokesperson said: "Everything is under review at the moment. In the meantime, we have decided to loan out more than 50 pieces this year, including to IMMA, the Fingal County Council and Draoicht Arts Centre (in Blanchardstown, Dublin)."

The move by BoI to sell its collection comes as it enters a crucial stage of a massive €3.5bn capital raising deal.

The Government has committed €1.6bn to the deal, which will result in it taking a 36pc stake in the bank.

But rather than borrow more money to pump into BoI, the State is converting almost half its existing €3.5bn investment in the bank into ordinary shares.

Next Monday, BoI will formally launch a €1.7bn share sale to existing stockholders -- the main element of the complicated transaction.

AIB is racing to raise €7.4bn by the end of the year to meet strict new regulatory requirements.

Analysts estimate it will generate more than €4.5bn of the amount by selling its US, Polish and British assets -- before going back cap-in-hand in the autumn to shareholders and the taxpayer.

Irish Independent

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