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Friday 23 August 2019

Surge in sales of art paints a bright picture

MONEY-SPINNER: ‘The Storm’ belonged to PJ Mara.
MONEY-SPINNER: ‘The Storm’ belonged to PJ Mara.

Sarah Slater

If anything, the fall in the market for fine art and sculpture was even harder than the wipeout of property in the crash.

"The years from 2009 to 2016 were bad for the Irish art world here as the Celtic Tiger had well and truly come to an abrupt end. Its roar had become a whimper. It was indeed difficult to sell renowned artists' pieces of art as a consequence," says Ian Whyte, director of Whyte and Sons Auctioneers in Dublin.

In business for two centuries, the auction house is well placed to gauge how the Irish economy is performing.

As prices on the international scene continue to rise, art in Ireland has staged a spectacular comeback. And sales suggest the trend is still upward.

While a newly discovered masterpiece, Saviour of the World, by Leonardo da Vinci was sold for a record-breaking $450m in New York last November, in the Irish market prices of hundreds of thousands of euros are viewed as impressive sums.

A painting by Paul Henry, best remembered for his inventive landscape paintings and lush scenes of the West of Ireland, went for more than double its estimated value. Killary Bay, depicting a sailing boat, was valued by Whytes at between €50,000 and €70,000, but made €140,000. Morning Glory by Jack Butler Yeats went for €175,000 - more than twice the asking price of €80,000.

Yeats was an expressionist painter and was one of Ireland's most important artists.

Late last year, a work, titled The Storm, a large oil on canvas by Mary Swanzy, sold for €100,000 - €70,000 more than its guide price.

The piece by Swanzy, an Irish landscape and genre artist and one of Ireland's first abstract painters, was part of a collection belonging to former government spin doctor the late PJ Mara.

Two months ago, a rare edition of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien was sold for €29,000 in Kilkenny by Mealy's auction house.

Conservative estimates for the book started at €20,000. It was one of 1,500 copies printed in 1937.

Mr Whyte added: "We were extremely surprised the two pieces by Henry and Yeats went for as much as they did.

"The demand for good Irish art is back with a bang. During the recession prices being made for paintings were at least 50pc lower than what they are now. The market here started to level out from the lower prices being realised between 2012 and 2015.

"Since then they have been steadily rising from 2016 to what it is now. Confidence is back in the art market now and more and more money is becoming available than was during the recession."

Sunday Independent

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