The Bank of Ireland is to sell off more than 150 of its prized paintings and sculptures as hard-pressed taxpayers are hit with a €15bn plan to cut services and raise taxes.
A public auction will be held tomorrow at Dublin’s historic Shelbourne Hotel, where the Constitution was drafted under the chairmanship of Michael Collins 88 years ago.
In a week where the Government was accused of giving away the country’s hard-won sovereignty to rescue an economy crippled by the banks, the irony is striking.
The valuable collection – expected to break the €1m mark – includes work by renowned artists Paul Henry, Louis le Brocquy and Basil Blackshaw.
But despite Bank of Ireland profits estimated to plummet 40% this year, the money raised by the sale will be put to community arts charities to help emerging painters, and not channelled back into the lender.
The hotel was chosen for the sale due to the expected size of the bidding crowd.
The lavish collection has attracted more interest from collectors and the general public than any other sale held by Adam’s Auctioneers, with 3,500 people already viewing the selection in Dublin alone.
With auction estimates ranging from €400 up to €70,000, highlights of the collection include Louis le Brocquy’s Study Towards a Head of James Joyce, estimated to bring in up to €70,000, and Basil Blackshaw’s Blue Grey Cock Crowing, estimated at up to €50,000.
A Paul Henry West of Ireland landscape – Turf Stacks By a Pool, Connemara -could also raise up to €50,000.
James O’Halloran, managing director at Adam’s, said it was the first time an Irish bank had chosen to sell its collection.
“The collection for sale is significant in the quality of the works included, with an emphasis on late 20th century and early 21st century Irish art,” Mr O’Halloran said.
“The majority of the particular pieces were acquired over the past 30 to 40 years with the aim of supporting emerging Irish artists at the start of their career.”