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Top 10 Most Expensive Irish Paintings Auctioned in Ireland (2013)
- The Ferry (1890) by Walter Osborne
Irish Art Market 2012: News & Sales Results
Once again, no living Irish artists featured in the annual list of Top 10 most expensive Irish paintings auctioned in Ireland: a list dominated yet again by Jack B Yeats (1871-1957) and Paul Henry (1876-1958). Indeed, apart from these two, only three other Irish painters sold for more than €100,000 in 2012 (four, if you count Orpen's Portrait of Rose, sold in London). Prices were up very slightly on 2011, while volume held steady with the combined turnover of the three top Dublin auction houses (Adam's, de Veres and Whyte's) amounting to €10 million, compared to €10.6 (2011) and €11.1 (2010). Even so, the austere economic climate continued both to depress pre-sale estimates and raise the quality of works offered for sale. Moreover, despite the success of his oil painting Procession with Lilies (1984), and a €450,000 bid for Indoors, Outdoors (1951) (which failed to meet its reserve of €500,000), the work of the recently deceased Louis le Brocquy (1916-2012) continues to underperform both in Dublin and London. The bad news in all this, is that the current market for Irish art appears to be based upon no more than four or five painters. This does not sit well with the tens of millions of euros devoted annually to the promotion of Irish artists. The only good news is that there appears to be no evidence of top quality Irish art being dumped on the market.
Top 10 Most Expensive Irish Paintings Auctioned in Ireland (2012)
- Procession with Lilies (1984)
by Louis Le Brocquy (€320,000) (Adam's)
Note: Portrait of Rose, 4th Marchioness of Headfort by William Orpen, was sold by Sotheby's, London, in 2012 for £577,250.
Irish Art Market 2011: News & Sales Results
In general, the market for Irish art in 2011 continued to reflect the difficult global economic climate, and the concomitant demand for good quality investments. Against a background of falling stock markets, falling commodity prices, and uncertainties over the Euro, a growing number of investors now see blue chip works of art as an important element (alongside gold and other precious items) in their portfolio of personal investments. The category of so-called 'blue chip' artworks includes rare works by artists of high standing in their particular field. The latter includes such Irish artists as Francis Bacon (1909-92), William Orpen (1878-1931), Jack B Yeats, John Lavery (1856-1941), William Scott (1913-89), James Barry (1741-1806), Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940), Walter Osborne (1859-1903), Frank O'Meara (1853-88), Sean Keating (1889-1977), Paul Henry, and others. The year's best example of such blue chip art was A Fair Day, Mayo (1925), an oil painting by Jack B. Yeats (formerly owned by Eamon de Valera, among others) which was sold in September for €1 million at Adam's sale of Important Irish Art in Dublin: the highest price ever paid at auction for a painting in Ireland. However, outside of this premium category of Irish art, buyers continue to be extremely circumspect about what they will buy and how much they will pay. The market for contemporary Irish art has suffered the greatest decline, and a huge number of works in this category remain unsold. Furthermore, considerable uncertainty exists as to the commercial value of many contemporary Irish artists, which is making it very difficult to arrive at any accurate valuations.
The 2011 art market produced similar results to a moderate 2010 market with Adam's auction house turnover standing at €5.2 million (compared to €5.1 million in 2010) and Whyte's at €3.6 million (€3.8 million in 2010). In general there continued to be a demand for representational paintings and a decrease interest in abstract and semi-abstract works. Yet despite the reduced size of the market compared to the heyday of the mid 2000s, there was one big surprise in the year: J B Yeats painting A Fair Day in Mayo (1925), sold for an impressive €1 million at Adam's sale in September. This made it the highest price ever paid for any painting at auction in Ireland (and accounted for 20 percent of Adam's sales total). It is suspected that its provenance may have added another half a million Euros onto the price tag. The painting started its life hanging in the office of Eamon de Valera, and it is thought that the main character in the painting may in fact be de Valera himself.
Overall Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry continued to be the top sellers at auction, but prices were still significantly down from the heights of 2005. The biggest adjustment to the Irish market happened in 2008 when the value of total sales dropped 40 percent, followed by another 50 percent in 2009. There was a 50 percent rebound in 2010, and 2011 continued more or less at this level. Established names continue to be the buyer's favourites in recession, including Gerard Dillon, Sean Keating, William Conor, and Walter Osborne. It is notable that no living artists made the top 10 list for either auction house in 2011. It is ironic that demand for contemporary Irish art was so weak in a year when the Department of Arts spent €5 million organising the Dublin Contemporary Art exhibition. This trend continued at the annual RHA exhibition where the majority of the canvases remained unsold. Even established names like Louis le Brocquy failed to command premium prices. The highest price in 2011 for one of his paintings was £79,250 (Woman in the Sunlight), compared to his overall best in 2005 of £1,158,500 for Travelling Woman with a Newspaper.
The appetite for Irish sculpture remained subdued. The highest price paid in 2011 was €58,000 for Patriarch by F E McWilliam. Apart from this piece, nothing came close to the record set in 2009 at Adams of €160,000 for King and Queen by Edward Delaney. In the Irish art auctions in London the stars of the show were Roderic O Conor (Landscape, Cassis, £337,250); Yeats (The Child of the Sea, £229,000) and John Lavery (Portrait of Lady Gwendoline Churchill, £121,250).
Looking ahead, one concern for buyers in the 2012 market is expected to be the new Artists Resale Rights Levy (Droite de Suite) which will apply to works of artists who were still living after 1942. While the levy will only apply to artworks in excess of €3,000 it is expected to create somewhat of an administrative nightmare. The auctioneers are not obliged to collect the fee from the sellers but simply to inform the artist's estate when it is due. It will then be up to the estate to prove they are the rightful recipients and to pursue payment.
Adams Auction House Results: Top 10 Sellers in 2011
1. Jack B Yeats, A Fair Day in Mayo (1925).
Whytes's Auction House Results: Top 10 Sellers in 2011
1. Jack B Yeats, Rescue Men (1949). Sold:
How Contemporary Artists Fared In 2011
Comparing top price paid for the artist in 2011 with the highest price paid for one of their artworks since 1993.
2011 NAMA Controversy
In what looks like a typical piece of government stupidity, part of the stock of Irish painting, sculpture and other valuables acquired by the National Asset Management Agency in Ireland - in lieu of unpaid debts incurred by building developers and others - was auctioned recently in London and New York by Christie's. This despite the fact that Irish art traditionally sells better in Dublin. Indeed art sales in Ireland have been quite robust in the run-up to Christmas, compared to London, where Christie's recent sale of 'UK and Irish Art' was relatively disappointing. Furthermore, while two Irish firms of auctioneers were invited to quote for disposing of the works, the contract was given to Christie's, who now stand to make an estimated €500,000 profit from the €2 million generated. James O'Halloran of Adam's auctioneers in Dublin reportedly told Finance Minister Mr Noonan that his firm would waive auction fees in return for keeping the business in Ireland - but to no avail.
Unfortunately, this situation could be repeated many times, as NAMA is believed to be in possession of a large amount of Irish art - one collection alone contains half-a-dozen paintings by Jack B Yeats - which could flood the market and severely depress prices, unless properly handled. Hopefully at least, NAMA will issue the auction contract to a Dublin firm to prevent further unnecessary losses to the Irish taxpayer.
Irish Art Market 2010: News & Sales Results
There's talk of a revival in the Irish art market. But a painting is not a standard object. So when a comparison is made between the Irish art prices in (say) 2010 and 2009, great care is required to ensure that one is comparing like with like: it's not like comparing oil prices. Thus, while it may be true in 2010 that both Adam's and Whyte's recorded increases of between 30 and 50 percent in sales volumes over 2009, a number of other factors need to be taken into account before an overall conclusion can be reached.
First, while demand for good quality works by a handful of blue-chip Irish painters may have steadied, the market for contemporary art has yet to hit rock bottom. This much was clear from extremely disappointing results at the 180th Royal Hibernian Academy Exhibition in May. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly where the dividing line between these two categories lies. And let's face it, there's more to Irish painting than Jack B Yeats, John Lavery, Sean Scully, Paul Henry, Roderic O'Conor, Gerard Dillon and Basil Blackshaw. Except that if we exclude these seven artists, no Irish painting sold for more than €66,000 in 2010.
Secondly, after a relatively successful Irish art sale in 2009, Christie's decided the market in 2010 did not justify a separate Irish sale, and instead bundled it with their auction of British art. Do they know something we don't? Thirdly, the Dublin-based auctioneers de Veres stated that their 2010 sales were slightly down on 2009. Fourthly, unless they have spent the last 2 years on Mars, every seller knows that unless a work is (1) high quality (2) new-to-market (3) well-provenanced and (4) accurately estimated, it won't sell. Take for instance Until We Meet Again by Jack B Yeats: it was offered for sale at Christie's for €1 million in 2010, but failed to attract a single bid. Lastly, it's difficult to know who to believe, these days. Back in the boom years, most people who were making a living from Irish art were delighted to see rocketing prices. Dealers, in particular, were telling us that €60,000 for a painting by XYZ was good value - the same dealers who are now shaking their heads and saying XYZ isn't selling at all: "he became terribly over-priced, you know." What better illustration of that phrase "Caveat emptor" - buyer beware!
Looking ahead in 2011, our more conservative view is that, while the speculators have withdrawn - leaving the salesroom to more knowledgable buyers, with perhaps more measured (and less trendy) tastes - the market remains uncertain: not least because the market for other securities, like shares and bonds, remains so unpredictable.
In short, a general trend has yet to emerge, and prices may fall further before a firm upward trend emerges. Meantime, the only consistent demand is for realistically-priced, well-provenanced, rare-ish paintings by top Irish artists, such as Jack B Yeats, William Orpen, John Lavery, William Osborne, Sean Scully, Paul Henry, Roderic O'Conor, Gerard Dillon, Basil Blackshaw and the like.
June 16: Last of the Major Dublin Auctions Satisfactory
Sales results from De Vere's Irish Art sale - the last major auction of the season, with 230 lots - were satisfactory but no more. Nearly all the top works found buyers at prices within pre-sale estimates, and total sales amounted to €410,000. The top price was €46,000 for The Dingle Peninsula from Rossbeigh Beach by Paul Henry, with three works by Tony O'Malley - Spring, Summer and Winter - going for an aggregate of €123,000 - well ahead of estimates. However, about 33 percent of lots went unsold, and even though they comprised mainly low-estimate works, many had no reserves.
June 2010: Auction Results Provide Sparkle in Dublin
Sales results at Dublin's top auctioneers Adam's and Whyte's provided a welcome pointer for a market still unsure of itself. Adam's sold 75 percent of its 160 lots, for a total of €1.5 million; Whyte's sold 86 percent of 220 lots for €1.08 million. Prices were comfortably within pre-sale estimates - which were set, it is fair to say, at a very realistic level - but more importantly, they attracted competitive bidding across the board. The top-priced lot at Adam's was Mending Nets, Aran (1942) by Gerard Dillon, which went for €80,000; individual artists whose works sold well included: Walter Osborne, Sir John Lavery, Jack B Yeats, Colin Middleton and William Conor. At Whyte's, the top lot was Kerry Landscape (1941) by Paul Henry, which was also hammered down for €80,000, while successful painters included: Gerard Dillon, Tony O'Malley, John Shinnors, Hughie O'Donoghue and William Crozier. Forecasts are dangerous to make just now, but it does seem as if the Irish art market has finally bottomed out.
End of May 2010: Poor Sales Results For Irish Art
Less than 30 percent of Irish paintings were sold at Christie's auction of British and Irish art in London, this week. By comparison, over 70 percent of British lots found buyers. Among the big-name failures were Until We Meet Again (1949) by Jack B Yeats, whose £1 million pre-sale estimate failed to attract a single bid. Other blue-chip works that failed to reach their reserves, and were therefore withdrawn, included: a large abstract composition by William Scott, a drawing in pencil and crayon by William Orpen, a figurative study by Louis le Brocquy, a river scene by Sir John Lavery, a study of a mother and child by William Conor, and a landscape by Colin Middleton. Only three works of art by Irish artists actually sold, albeit only just within estimates: Chrysanthemums (1928), a still life by Paul Henry, for €60,000; The Music Has Come (1950) by Jack B Yeats, for €63,000; and Together (1965) by William Scott, for €26,000. All this leaves Adam's upcoming sale on Wednesday June 2 with the final word on the current state of the Irish art market.
May 2010: Sotheby's Sale of Irish Art: 41 Percent of Lots Sold
At Sotheby's annual Irish art sale in London, the largest auction of Irish art so far this year, sale-prices were slightly down on 2009, with 41 percent of lots selling at the lower end of pre-sale estimates. Total receipts were €2.3 million. The highest price of €564,000 (inc fees) was paid for The Gold Turban (1929) by the Impressionist Sir John Lavery (1856-1941). A portrait of his wife Hazel, the work had not been seen before at auction. Other top prices included €424,000 for Spanish Shawl, a Study in White (1942) by the great Louis le Brocquy (1916-2012); €212,000 for Paysage Ensoleille by the expatriate Irish colourist Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940); €142,000 for the Dublin streetscape A Garden in a City at Night (1949) by Jack B Yeats (1871-1957); €118,540 for the equestrian work Morning Exerise by Basil Blackshaw (b.1932); €62,130 for the watercolour At the Railway Station by Harry Kernoff (1900-74). The unsold lots included the equestrian The Morning Ride (1909) by Lavery (estimate: €115-172,000); the abstract Eriskay by the Irish-American Sean Scully (b.1945) (estimate: €229-344,000); the 4-panel work Life in the West of Ireland by Gerard Dillon (1916-71) (estimate: €57-92,000); Self-Portrait in a Bearskin by Sean Keating (1889-1977) (estimate: €80-115,000) among others.
February 2010: Is This an Upturn?
Results from both Christie's (Feb 2) and Sotheby's (Feb 3) London sales of Impressionist and Modern Art exceeded most expectations, with a world record price (104,327,006) being set for a work of art at auction. (Walking Man by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti sold for $104,327,006). Whether this upturn will be replicated in upcoming sales of Irish painting and sculpture is anybody's guess, although we feel that Irish prices are likely to be even more conditional on the quality of artworks being offered for sale.
For more about scenic artworks,
see: Irish landscape artists.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART