The best of Irish art in 2012 may be still to come

This Regency Carlton House Desk made 85,000 at Mealy's-Christie's sale in Mount Congreve.

What distinguishes the Irish market is the scale and the prices achieved. In the New York sales last week a Monet sold for $43.7 million and a Picasso made $41.5 million.

At Sotheby’s in New York this week Mark Rothko’s seminal, large-scale masterpiece, No.1 (Royal Red and Blue) sold for $75,122,500 against a high estimate of $50 million in what has been a very good week for the international Contemporary art market.

Apart from the work of Irish born Francis Bacon these sort of figures are an impossible dream for Irish art. Whether in Ireland or abroad the market wants quality and is prepared to pay for it. Apart from the work of Irish born Francis Bacon — whose Untitled (Pope) sold for $29.7 million this week — these sort of figures are an impossible dream for Irish art.

What serious collectors in todays global art market want is rarity, quality, condition, provenance preferably with some exhibition history and stable long term value. And whether in Ireland or abroad the estimate must be right.

Sellers need to know that this is a market for buyers who are smart. A painting with an unrealistic estimate will not sell. Collectors at every level of the art market are showing themselves to be careful of how they spend. In this recessionary environment no one — from the very rich to the inveterate collector chronically short of cash — is prepared to throw money away.

The market now is glabal

The art and antiques market has become global in a way that would have been unimagined five years ago. The influence of buyers from China has been felt in the furthest reaches of Ireland. Internet buyers are a new factor at many auctions. Ups and downs are a feature of all trades.

There was reduced sales at auctions during Asian Art Week in London earlier this month so the purse strings of buyers from China may be tightening. As this is a week of regime change in Beijing market insiders are loathe to predict what will happen in coming months.

In Durrow in Co. Laois Sheppards has had notable success with Asian buyers. They will offer a Chinese Ming-style blue and white yuhuchunping vase at their three day Dublin and Provincial sale starting on November 27. The vase is estimated at 150,000-200,000. Other rarities in this upcoming auction include a silver salt cellar from a Fabergé workmaster in St. Petersburg and a mid 18th century Irish cutlery stand.

“There is always a market for key pieces of 18th century Irish furniture. That has not changed”, Philip Sheppard said.

“The middle market has softened but our view is that it has stabilised over the past year”.

Mealy’s, located in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, reports a very successful year in 2012 with various collections yielding hammer prices totalling €4 million. This rises to €8 million if the Mount Congreve London sale is included.

Mealy’s were joint agents with Christie’s for this sale. More than 5,000 lots have been sold. There will be a winter decorative arts sale at Mealy’s on December 11th-12th next.

Mealy’s rare books is a separate entity, though under the same umbrella, and will hold a Christmas book auction in Dublin on December 4th and 5th.

On the Cork scene auctioneer Denis Lynes is very pleased with his move to Carrigtwohill, where auctions are held every five or six weeks. Mr Lynes will not accept unrealistic estimates from sellers. A recent sale of contents from King’s Square in Mitchelstown was a complete sell out.

“If I find something interesting now I can let the world know about it” he said. Woodwards, where there is to be an antique sale next Wednesday evening, will be celebrating 130 years in business next year.

Managing director Tom Woodward reports strong demand for silver and good quality small furniture and said the second half of this year has been ahead of the same period in 2011.

Woodwards will hold a tag sale in Cook St., Cork throughout December with items from sold estates earmarked for upcoming auctions on offer.

Marshs will hold a sale in Cork on December 8 which will include the stamp collection of the late Douglas Wakefield, as well as jewellery, coins and furniture. The stamp collection features Irish and English stamps and various first day covers. This is a great time to buy furniture according to Hugh McPhillips of Marshs.

He reports that young couples are back in the market buying brown furniture.

The newly established Cork Auction Rooms at South Link Park off the airport road at Ballycurreen run monthly auctions on the last Sunday of each month. These feature 800 to 1,000 lots of antiques as well as porcelain, glass, silver, brass, art and furniture. The next sale here is on November 25. The Irish Fine Art Auction Group headquartered in Doneraile now embraces the auction rooms at Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare and Kilcolgan, Co. Galway. The next sale in Doneraile on November 24 will offer good parochial furniture on behalf of Fr. Michael Cogan, retired parish priest at Glantane. There will be a sale in Sixmilebridge on December 4. Auctioneer Aidan Foley remarked that it is a buyers market for mid-market furniture.

Irish Art Sales

Interest in Irish art is reflected in sales which draw big numbers of viewers. Three up and coming art sales include a specialist art auction in Limerick at 5.30pm tomorrow. At Limerick Auction Rooms on Ballysimon Road there is work from a number of established Irish artists including Jack B Yeats, Daniel O’Neill, John Shinnors, Grace Henry, Leo Whelan, William Conor, Markey Robinson and George Campbell.

The sale is on view from 10am to 5pm today and tomorrow. In Dublin the Morgan O’Driscoll art auction is scheduled for 6.30pm next Monday at the Clyde Court Hotel in Ballsbridge.

It is on view from noon to 8pm tomorrow and from 10am to 6pm on Monday and features a broad cross section of Irish art. Morgan O’Driscoll has successful run a series of on-line art auctions. His next on-line sale is on December 10 and will go live on his website from December 1.

Whyte’s will offer exceptional contemporary and traditional Irish art at the R.D.S. Dublin on Monday, November 26. It will feature a wealth of Irish artistic talent. The sale goes on view next Friday from 6pm to 8pm and from 10am to 6 pm on each of the following three days. There will be gallery talks about the art featured on November 24 and November 25 at 3pm

Combined these sales will all contribute to a healthy 2012 for the Irish art and antiques market. This market is proving to be robust in the face of severe financial difficulties. Recession or no appreciation for fine art, antiques and collectibles in Ireland is steadily increasing.

The potential sale of a pair of Irish George II mahogany side tables estimated at up to £400,000 at Sotheby’s Arts of Europe sale in London on December 4 will serve to enhance this appreciation among collectors, connoisseurs, curators and art market professionals from around the world.

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