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High-end Irish art a safe haven for new money


‘Windy Day, Co Kerry’ by Paul Henry

‘Windy Day, Co Kerry’ by Paul Henry

‘Windy Day, Co Kerry’ by Paul Henry

High-end Irish art sales soared this year with paintings changing hands for prices not seen since the height of the boom.

The total for Irish art sold at Sotheby’s in London came to €6.7m — the highest aggregate the auction house has achieved for Irish art in a single year since 2001.

Dublin fine art auctioneers Whyte’s had an even better result, raising €7m — more than any year since 2007. Managing Director Ian Whyte believes art sales follow the property market. He said: “Sales have been doing well for the past two or three years, but this year was really hectic.”

Highlights in Whyte’s sales room include William Scott’s Blue Still Life, which sold for €400,000; Le Brocquy’s Image of Samuel Beckett, which fetched €200,000; and two Jack B Yeats paintings — Man With Wrinkled Face sold for €245,000, and Pilot Sligo River for €340,000.

Adams Fine Arts Auctioneers sold a Walter Osborne painting called Counting the Flock for €165,000; and a sculpture by FE Williams called Woman of Belfast for €28,000. Their most expensive item was a table made in 1588 from wood taken from the wreck of a Spanish Armada ship, which sold for €360,000.

Adams MD James O’Halloran said: “The market is as strong as it has ever been. Irish people love Irish art.”

The total raised at Sotheby’s in London was helped by a single collection which reached a record €3.7m. The 100 oils, watercolours and sculptures by influential Irish artists were amassed by American entrepreneur Brian P Burns. At Sotheby’s November auction, bidders chased one of six Rowan Gillespie sculptures which had graced Mr Burns’s Californian home. The most costly proved to be The Settlers, which sold for €73,000.

Roderic O’Connor’s Romeo and Juliet sold for €408,412 — the highest for this artist in 10 years.

Charlie Minter, head of Irish Art at Sotheby’s, said: “There was international bidding from new and established collectors with strong prices for the great names of Irish art, including O’Connor, Yeats, Lavery, Orpen and Osborne as well as new records for lesser-known artists such as James Gore and Lillian Davidson.”

An important private collection held by Joseph and Brenda Calihan, from Pittsburgh, USA, raised a total of €3m. The September Sotheby’s auction saw two Jack B Yeats’s paintings top the sales, with Sunday Evening in September going for €441,000, while Early Sunshine sold for €237,851.

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An Irish bidder paid €237,851 for Gerard Dillon’s Lobster Pots, a record for this artist. Two Paul Henry oil paintings, Windy Day, and Evening on Killary Bay sold for €223,860 and €104,934 respectively. Head of Sotheby’s Ireland Arabella Bishop said: “We have seen some spectacular results. We are getting exciting new, young buyers in their 40s coming into the market looking for alternative investments to property.

“We saw a similar peak in 2000, but growth this time has been more gradual so hopefully it will have longevity.

“The primary art market, where contemporary artists sell through galleries, has also had a good year.”

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