Friday 24 May 2019

The Art Collective

When it comes to buying art, the best advice for novices, writes Katy McGuinness, is to learn what you like

Katie Tsouros, who founded online gallery Artfetch, believes the internet can offer more choice. Photo: Fran Veale
Katie Tsouros, who founded online gallery Artfetch, believes the internet can offer more choice. Photo: Fran Veale
Trees by Mary Swanzy
Cecilia Danell's The Fabric of Reality
Molly Judd 'First Light'
Neil Raitt's 'Sunset Cross'
Dorothy Cross's 'Foxglove'
Isabel Nolan's 'Noise and Light'
Nicholas Gore-Grimes of Adam's Auctioneers
Sean Scully's 'Red Fold'

After a period in the doldrums, interest in Irish art is alive and well again. At Morgan O'Driscoll's auction of Irish and International Art held in Dublin's RDS on April 29, the auctioneer staged previews of selected works from the sale in New York and London to facilitate international bidders.

The artists represented in the show are household names and included Paul Henry, Jack B Yeats, John Lavery and Roderick O'Conor, whose portrait of his wife, Renee Honta, was expected to sell for between €30,000 and €50,000.

Nicholas Gore-Grimes is an associate director at Adam's Auctioneers on St Stephen's Green in Dublin. "Some names are always collectable," he says. "Through the depths of the recession, Paul Henry carried on regardless, while Louis le Brocquy peaked and then went into steep decline. He's coming back now, though."

Nicholas's advice to anyone thinking about dipping a toe into the art market for the first time is to visit galleries and see as much as possible before making that first purchase.

Nicholas Gore-Grimes of Adam's Auctioneers
Nicholas Gore-Grimes of Adam's Auctioneers

"We have phenomenal galleries in Dublin, such as the Molesworth, the Solomon and Hillsboro Fine Art. Mother's Tankstation operates on a very serious international level; Kevin Cosgrove and Mairead O'Heocha are two beautiful painters that they represent. The Taylor Gallery carries a very high standard of Irish art and represents many familiar names. And right at the top of the pile is the Kerlin, which is doing very well overseas. They represent Callum Innes, a Scottish artist, and Sean Scully, our leading contemporary artist, as well as Eoin McHugh, Isabel Nolan (she did Turning Point, the large yellow sculpture that you'll recognise from Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport), Dorothy Cross, and Kathy Prendergast."

Nicholas says that there has been particular interest in 20th-century Irish female artists since the Mary Swanzy show at IMMA that ran until earlier this year, and prices are getting stronger. Other artists in whom he sees strong interest are Kevin Cosgrove and Mark Francis, although works by these artists tend to change hands in the primary market rather than in the auction rooms.

"I don't really like using the term 'investment'," says Nicholas, "as for collectors it's not really about profit. Yes, at the top echelons of the art game, works are traded and there are huge profits in the headlines, but it is a very treacherous game and there are no guarantees.

"Talking to collectors, it's a journey that they go on to develop their personal taste. It can be intimidating to get started, but it's important not to be afraid to make mistakes - that's part of the enjoyment."

Nicholas advises novice collectors with modest budgets to visit the end-of-year degree shows at NCAD and IADT.

"You might pick up a few nice pieces and it's fun to watch out for those artists in the years to come and see how their careers are progressing. You can start collecting art at any budget level - just don't put yourself under pressure financially to buy a piece. I do think that it's important not to be elitist, and to visit smaller galleries. Sometimes there is a snobbery about works on paper - we are a bit slow here, we are more oil on canvas - but the Black Church print studio is superb, and the work is very affordable."

Trees by Mary Swanzy
Trees by Mary Swanzy

Although the online market for art is growing ever more important, Nicholas remains sceptical.

"I don't think anything beats going to the gallery and perhaps meeting the artist, then you have a special bond with their work. I believe more people now are happy to buy online, but I find it amazing the extent to which people can spend without seeing the work in the flesh."

Someone who disagrees is Katie Tsouros, who was 25 when she opened her KTcontemporary gallery in Dublin and went on to found online art business, ArtFetch, which she sold to RiseArt in 2016 for an undisclosed sum.

"I had worked in various commercial galleries and museums in Dublin and London. For my gallery, I sought out emerging artists and showcased their work in monthly curated exhibitions.

"The idea for KTcontemporary was really for it to be a brand, and the niche was discovering these really cool up-and-coming artists that were priced accessibly. I wanted to bring awareness to the kind of incredible art you can find and artists you can invest in right from the start of their career, for not a lot of money.

"At the same time the 'start-up' world was really exploding, but the online space for art still had a lot of opportunity, and there were not a lot of players who were doing it really well, in a very curated way. I still believe that's the case today. So the idea for KTcontemporary evolved into the online space. My mum, Patricia Tsouros, who was a collector, had also been doing a lot of research into the idea of an online space for art, and so Artfetch was born."

Katie has since founded a jewellery brand and works as a brand and marketing consultant, but retains a keen interest in the art world. She advises beginners first and foremost to buy what they love, but also shares a few expert tips.

"There are definitely things you can look out for that will give you a good idea if the artist is on the right path or not. Look at where they studied - a prestigious art school still holds a lot of weight when an artist enters the market. Who is showing them? Are they being picked up by any galleries or emerging artist shows? Have they won awards? Who do they exhibit with? If they are in good company and doing work with other artists who are more established or are also on the rise, that's always a good sign.

"Make sure that you get all the relevant information about the artist and their career path, and that you fully understand the dimensions and materials used in a piece so you know what to expect. A good trick is to cut out the size in a newspaper so you really get a feel if you're not sure. Ninety-five per cent of the time what you see online will look even better in reality, so it's rare to be disappointed. For me, buying online means a lot more choice and being able to browse in your own time, plus it's not intimidating in the way that some galleries can be. I buy everything from clothes to art online!"

To whet your appetite, visit Art Loft at house 2019, where 40 artists will be showing their work from May 24-26, at the RDS, Dublin; tickets on


Katie’s top online galleries to visit


Unit London — bricks and mortar gallery that also sells online


Tappan Collective — LA-based online gallery with cool artists


Art Snap — making investing in established artists easier for everyone


Avant Arte — relatively new with a huge Instagram following


Six Artists to watch

Molly Judd 'First Light'

Molly Judd

A young Irish figurative painter (


Stella Kapezanous

Talented Greek artist (


Neil Raitt

British artist working in London and LA (


Jon Pilkington

British artist based in Copenhagen (


Cecilia Danell

Swedish artist based in Galway, who exhibited in a recent RHA show  (


Genieve Figgis

Irish artist, with a huge Instagram following (

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