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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Irish buyers spending big on art over the fleeting luxuries

DOe-Eyed: Sophie Cosgrave from Dundrum with artist Patrick O’Reilly’s bronze sculpture, ‘All The Love That I Have’, and inset ‘GI Bear’, which are on display at the Merrion Hotel as part of the De Vere Irish Art Auction Exhibition. Photos: Steve Humphreys
DOe-Eyed: Sophie Cosgrave from Dundrum with artist Patrick O’Reilly’s bronze sculpture, ‘All The Love That I Have’, and inset ‘GI Bear’, which are on display at the Merrion Hotel as part of the De Vere Irish Art Auction Exhibition. Photos: Steve Humphreys
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Private Irish buyers will make up the bulk of sales on almost half a million euro worth of art that will go under the hammer this Tuesday - as the art world slowly recovers from the 2008 crash.

One of Ireland's biggest art houses, de Vere's on Kildare Street in Dublin, will sell off 120 lots, and director Rory Guthrie explained how a discerning group are spending their money on art rather than on fleeting luxuries.

"It's not banks, it's not corporate, it's all private. We have 120 lots and certainly all the higher-end art will be bought by private Irish buyers," he said.

"Some people go on skiing holidays or buy a car worth €50,000 and others buy art. They are not necessarily household names but they are people who want to spend money on something that they can enjoy. I use the word 'invest' but really it's for a love of the work too. Everyone will buy a picture or piece they like and do it with the knowledge that if you drive a car out of a car park, it halves in value, whereas you can spend that money on art and it won't disappear the day you buy it.

"It is certainly safer than banking shares and - at the moment - it's probably safer than property too, because the prices have not recovered in the same way."

He explains that art has not seen the same sharp trajectory as other Irish assets: "In any cycle, art is the last thing to fall and the last thing to rise in an economy, and I think when things tailed off between 2006 and 2008, the art survived a bit longer and interestingly, following that pattern now, while property has recovered quite a bit, art prices haven't.

"We have a [Louis] le Brocquy, for example, in at €49,000-50,000, which sold in the heyday for €150,000, so there is plenty of value out there."

The Irish art world holds two big sales a year, in June and November. Some of the works which will go under the hammer at the auction at de Vere's on Tuesday are on display at the Merrion Hotel and include a piece by Patrick O'Reilly of his signature-style bear carrying a donkey on its back, with a guide price of between €80,000 and 120,000. Entitled 'GI Bear', it was inspired by a photograph of a World War II soldier walking through a field, carrying a donkey.

Another sculpture, a doll, stands in the garden of the hotel and is entitled 'All The Love That I Have.' As Rory explains: "Patrick is an amazing sculptor. He has an exhibition in Paris at the moment at Galerie Vallois. He is global. We are lucky in Ireland to have that kind of creativity. As an artistic brain, Patrick is a genius."

Speaking about demand in the Irish art market, Mr Guthrie said: "the top-end of the market is the strongest. In terms of paintings, people are buying the Paul Henrys, the Walter Osbornes, the Jack Yeats, the Roderic O'Conors, more so than going for what is in the lower-end bracket.

"With the value of money and the interest rate at the moment, if you sell a painting to put money on deposit, then the return isn't really there, so pictures are seen as the safe haven.

"The public can go in and view the pieces over the next few days and it is also raising awareness that sculpture is one of the great arts in Ireland."

Other art include works by Sean Keating, Patrick Scott and Mainie Jellett.

Sunday Independent

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