Much activity in the Irish Art and Antiques market

Against the Stream by Jack B. Yeats at Whytes in Dublin on November 26th. It is estimated at €50,000-€70,000.

THE Irish art and antique market has not had a bad year and the best of 2012 is yet to come.

A pair of exceptional Irish George II side tables could make a record price for Irish furniture at Sotheby’s in London next month. Estimated at £250,000-400,000 sterling the c1755 tables belong in a rarified category of antique that is recession proof.

Selling pieces of exceptional quality has not been a problem. There is ample evidence that demand for the finest pieces remains strong. Money was no object as collectors vied for the finest pieces at the Irish house sale of the decade at Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford in July. Not every sale can be of such calibre. Those involved in the Irish art and antique market have had to work very hard — in many cases for less return — than in the headiest days of the boom. On the plus side the market is anything but static. There is no shortage of activity in an ever changing market place where the internet is playing an increasingly significant role.

This continues to be a very good time for buyers of art, antique furniture and collectibles at all levels of the market. Great value is available. While this is something those in the trade take for granted as it has been happening for some time, newcomers to the market find it amazing.

More people are attending auctions and fairs. Auctioneers report new faces at sales as distinct from long established clients. Once people come in and see the value that is there they will usually be back again.

For example big old antique Victorian furniture is changing hands at prices that in some cases are more than 60 per cent off peak. There is not much demand for Georgian linen presses or Victorian wardrobes, despite the fact that such furniture has stood the test of time and was lovingly made by craftworkers using highly quality materials. At the last Marshs auction in Cork a three part Georgian wardrobe in perfect condition complete with bevelled glass sold for just €300. Smaller pieces like elbow chairs or occasional tables that can fit comfortably into a modern sized home are more sought after.

Keating makes good price in London

A European buyer snapped up Sean Keating’s self-portrait Fear Sorrdha (Man at Ease) for an above estimate £91,250 at Sotheby’s British and Irish art sale in London on Tuesday. From the collection of the late Peter Langan or Langan’s Brasserie it had been estimated at £50,000-80,000. Afterwards Grant Ford, Head of British and Irish Paintings at Sotheby’s remarked on the international client base and the number of new buyers in the field and commented: “We witnessed some solid prices for Irish art”.

In the upper levels of the Irish art market demand is currently focused on fresh to the market work with good provenance. This reflects pretty accurately the position on the international art market.

The big Impressionist and Modern Art sales in New York last week were viewed with disappointment in some quarters as around one third of the lots at sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s failed to find buyers. Much the same sort of thing happens at every auction of Irish art in Ireland. This is present day market reality everywhere.

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