Looking back on a record year for sales of art and sculpture

Des O’Sullivan says that 2015 has been a year when records were broken for sales of art and sculpture.

Looking back on a record year for sales of art and sculpture

From Russborough’s Rubens to John T Power’s GAA medals — from the Speaker’s Clock of the Irish Parliament to Archdeacon Duggan’s Military Cross; from the art of Jack B Yeats to a record breaking Picasso — it has been a memorable year in the world of art, antiques and collectibles.

A strong finish to the art selling season earlier this month augurs well for the future of the Irish art market.

It seems to be rising with the economy in general and the outlook is rosier than it has been for many years.

The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was marked at the Royal Academy in London with a display of the massive cartoon of the battle by the Cork artist Daniel MacLise (1809-1870).

The Meeting of Wellington and Bucher after the Battle of Waterloo is on display until January 3.

A set of 28 prints by the acclaimed Cork artist James Barry (1741-1806) was acquired by the Snite Museum at the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Indiana, to enhance their position as a centre for Irish art and historical and transatlantic studies.

In September Whyte’s sold an 1842 painting by James Mahony of the consecration of St Mary’s, Pope’s Quay, Cork, to the Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut.

In May Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction when it made $179,365,000 at Christie’s in New York.

That month too, Giacometti’s L’homme au doigt made $141,205,000 to become the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction.

In November Modigliani’s Nu Couche became the second most expensive work at auction when it made $170,405,000 at Christie’s.

Prime lots in Ireland during the year included a pair of Chinese powder blue vases which made €560,000 at Sheppard’s sale at Capard House, Co Laois, in September. This was an Irish auction record for porcelain.

In Castlecomer in February Fonsie Mealy sold a Native American outfit for €320,000.

He sold the John T Power collection of All-Ireland medals for €40,000 in May and the Irish Houses of Parliament Speaker’s Clock for €115,000, at a house sale at Furness, Co Kildare, in September.

In Cork, Woodward’s sold the Military Cross and other medals awarded to Cork chaplain Archdeacon Tom Duggan for €8,000. The student guitar used by the Edge of U2 made €21,000 at Whyte’s in March.

The same auctioneer sold a harp gifted by WB Yeats to Maud Gonne for €37,000 in May.

Morgan O’Driscoll and de Vere’s each sold works by Jack Yeats for more than €200,000 at hammer in latter weeks.

Christie’s in Hong Kong sold a fuchsia Birkin bag for US$222,912 in June.

It was the most expensive handbag ever to be auctioned.

The eight Russborough paintings including Portrait of a Bearded Man by Rubens scheduled to be sold at Christie’s during the summer were withdrawn and it looks as if they will all now stay in Ireland.

Donors have been found for some of the works under tax incentive schemes and this process is ongoing.

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