The art market

Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud - the most expensive work ever sold at auction.

Francis Bacon made art market history in New York this week when his Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold for $142,405,000 at Christie's in New York to become the most valuable painting ever sold at auction.

The international contemporary market has never been hotter. Overall Christie's sale in New York on Tuesday night achieved $691,583,000 – the highest auction total in art market history. This surpassed the single auction record of $495 million set last May.

Matters are not so rosy in Ireland and we need to put more time and effort into promoting our contemporary artists on the international stage. Given that post 1945 art serves as a substitute for Impressionist and early 20th century art - so much of which has vanished into collections --this problem is urgent.

The next sale is always of interest and in London next Tuesday Sotheby's will offer the most important painting by William Orpen to come to market in at least ten years. It is one of a number of Irish works at Sotheby's sale. Orpen's portrait of Lady Idina Wallace - characterised as "the Bolter" in three novels by Nancy Mitford --is estimated at £800,000-1.2 million. The record for Orpen was established in 2001 when his portrait of Gardenia St. George sold for £1.9 million.

There is a noticeable increase in the number of bidders at all Irish art sales. For all but the very best works prices are down on what they would have been five years ago and there is plenty of value to be found.

The usual caveats apply to art buying. If you are spending a lot of money it is always advisable to buy from a reputable source and from someone who will verify that what has been sold is what it purports to be. Anything valuable has been faked, forged and copied. It is important when buying a work or art, or any antique, to ensure that it is what it says on the tin.

There is no doubting the interest in art from buyers. Morgan O'Driscoll, who has had eight online art sales so far this year, said that there are as many people sales now as during the good days. He regularly records a sell through rate of over 80 percent. He will hold a sale of Irish and British at the Clyde Court Hotel in Dublin on December 2 and this auction will be on view in Skibbereen on November 22, 23 and 24.

The usual winter sales of Important Irish Art are nearly upon us. Though it is a long way short of the boom the Irish art market is slowly beginning to show an improvement. More people in the trade are more optimistic than they were.


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