The Winter Edition of the Irish Arts Review is on sale now!
No upswing to report, but thankfully no sharp downward trajectory either, writes John Mulcahy in his analysis of the art market in 2012.
‘Unexciting’ might be the most apt description for the Irish art market in 2012. The total volume of business was remarkably close to the results achieved in the previous year with the three leading Dublin auction houses reporting a combined sale of €10m which compared with €10.6m in 2011 and €11.1m in 2010. The highest price paid at auction in Ireland last year was the €320,000 paid at Adam’s for Louis le Brocquy’s Procession with Lillies. Nonetheless this compared poorly with 2011’s high – which was the €1m paid for Jack Yeats’ A Fair Day, Mayo. However, the good news is that the market appears to have bottomed out and there was no evidence of top quality Irish art being dumped on the market. Adam’s claimed a sell rate of 80%, which was in line with recent years, and deVeres put theirs at 70%. A number of substantial private collections came to the market during 2012, but in the most valuable house sale for years, at Mount Congreve in Waterford, there was little or no Irish art included in the auction. In terms of volume, the London auction houses did a smaller business in Irish sales yet they achieved some of the higher prices, for example, the £577,250 for Orpen’s Portrait of Rose at Sotheby’s.
Adam’s total turnover for Irish art sales for 2012 was €4.36m which was broadly in line with previous years when you strip out exceptional items such as the big Bank of Ireland art sale in 2010 and the million euro sale of Yeats’ A Fair Day Mayo in 2011. Adam’s was fortunate to have had disposals from at least three private collections during the year. These included important paintings from Beaulieu House in Co Louth with several works by Yeats and Swanzy featuring among the top prices, including, Good Evening Men, which was the top priced Yeats picture (€180,000) at Adam’s last year. The art collection from Independent News and Media was another boost for this auction house during 2012, the highlight of which was le Brocquy’s Procession with Lillies, which was Ireland’s most expensive painting bought at auction last year. Another private collection contributed two rare Irish paintings, which were included in the Adam’s ‘top ten’ for the year, William Leech’s Interior of a Café (€200,000) (Fig) and R T Moynan’s The Travelling Show (€140,000).
According to James O’Halloran of Adam’s, sales of sculpture also contributed well to the Adam’s turnover in 2012. F E McWilliams’ Woman of Belfast was sold for €27,000 against a top estimate of €10,000 and a rare bronze by Jerome Connor entitled The Pikeman and dating from circa 1940 made a mid estimate of €20,000. Modern pieces by Melanie le Brocquy, John Behan and Imogen Stuart all sold well through the year as did Krystyna Pomeroy’s animal bonzes with one of her Seated Hare pieces selling for €4,200 against a low estimate of €1,200.
Ian Whyte managed to increase his turnover in 2012 to €4m approximately which compared with €3.8m in 2011 and €3.6m in 20011. The increase was no doubt helped by the disposal of the collection of the late Liam O’Keefe-Ajudhkij, the Irishman who had established a successful business in Thailand, and also sales from the estate of the late Jim O’Driscoll SC. The top price for a painting at Whyte’s in 2012 was the €100,000 paid for Paul Henry’s Evening in Achill followed by the €80,000 for Jack Yeats’ On the Courthouse Steps (Fig). But the biggest single contributor to the Whyte’s Irish art sale figure was the €245,000 achieved for a complete set of the Tain tapestries in black and white by Louis le Brocquy.
Table 1: Adam’s Top Results for 2012
1. Louis le Brocquy Procession with Lillies 26.09.2012 L117 €320,000
2. William John Leech Interior of a Cafe 30.05.2012 L36 €200,000
3. Jack B Yeats Good Evening Men 30.05.2012 L50 €180,000
4. Paul Henry The Bog at Evening 26.09.2012 L36 €150,000
5. Richard T Moynan The Travelling Show 05.12.2012 L55 €140,000
6. Paul Henry Fishing Boats, Dugort 30.05.2012 L34 €125,000
7. Jack B Yeats The Novelist 28.03.2012 L66 €95,000
8. Paul Henry In the Wicklow Mountains 26.09.2012 L34 €64,000
9. Jack B Yeats The Boat Builder 26.09.2012 L30 €62,000
10. Paul Henry Grace O’Malleys Castle 04.12.2012 L44 €62,000
11. Jack B Yeats Engravings 04.12.2012 L82 €60,000
Another contributory factor to the strong sales at Whyte’s may be that the commission paid by buyers here is still held at 18% plus VAT while Adam’s, deVeres and Mealy’s are now charging 20% plus VAT. Of course, the London houses are charging 25% plus VAT.
With a turnover of €1.7m in 2012, deVeres volume of business in Irish art sales was very similar to the €1.8m returned in 2011 although still down from the €2.2m in 2010. Four paintings by Jack Yeats contributed substantially to this business particularly his The Night has Gone (€225,000) and Safe Harbour (€90,000) both in the November sale as was his Fresh Horses (€40,000). Other highlights during 2012 included Mainie Jellett’s Abstract Composition (€74,000), (Fig), Louis le Brocquy’s Distant Image (€50,000) and Paul Henry’s Spring in Wicklow with approximately 70% sold of the items offered for auction. According to Rory Guthrie of deVeres about 25% of their sales are now conducted online, the majority of which come from Irish buyers. DeVeres do not automatically deduct the droite de suite (4% levy on work of deceased artists) from the vendor but on request, pass on the vendor details to the relevant collection agent. There is also a 3% commission charge due to salesroom.com for lots purchased using live bidding.
Table 2: Whyte’s Top Results for 2012
1. Paul Henry Evening in Achill, 21.05.2012 L70 €100,000
2. Jack B Yeats On the Courthouse Steps 12.03.2012 L29 €88,000
3 Sir John Lavery The Rising Moon, 26.11.2012 L50 €76,000
4. Paul Henry Cottages, West of Ireland 21.05.2012 L76 €56,000
5. Jack B Yeats Against the Stream 26.11.2012 L44 €53,000
6. Jack B Yeats The Pontoon 21.05.2012 L63 €49,000
7. Jack B Yeats Glencar Sligo 26.11.2012 L46 €42,000
8. Daniel O’Neill Florence 21.05.2012 L62 €41,000
9. Daniel O’Neill Brigid, 196001.10.2012 L55 €37,000
10. Frank McKelvey Swans on the Lagan, 21.05.2012 L82 €35,000
Separate mention must be made of the one ‘Irish’ artist whose important work seems to come to the market through either Christie’s or Sotheby’s in London. Both auction houses had a fairly similar experience in 2012 with each of them selling three or four Scully oils at a median price around £400,000 each. Scully’s highest price for the year was the £601,000 paid for his Wall of Light Stone (Fig) at Christie’s, which brought their total Scully sale up to £1.75m. Sotheby’s three Scully paintings made a total of £1,017,000. Together therefore the seven Scully’s sold at auction in London last year amounted to £2,767,000.
Table 1: de Vere’s Top Results for 2012
1. Jack B Yeats The Night Has Gone 27.11.2012 L27 €225,000
2. Jack B Yeats Safe Harbour 27.11.2012 L15 €90,000
3. Mainie Jellett Absract Composition 27.11.2012 L23 €74,000
4. Stanley Royle Driving out the Flock 22.05.2012 L48 €62,000
5. Jack B Yeats The Hobby Horses 22.05.2012 L36 €55,000
6. Louis le Brocquy Distant Image 22.05.2012 L111 €50,000
7. Roderic O’Connor Fleurs Dans Un Vase 22.05.2012 L22 €44,000
8. Paul Henry Spring in Wicklow 22.05.2012 L38 €40,000
9. Jack B Yeats Fresh Horses 27.11.2012 L51 €40,000
10. Camille Souter Quiet Snow in Stephen's Green 27.11.2012
Apart from Scully, the London auction houses are conducting a mixed approach to the Irish market. Christie’s no longer hold a separate sale of Irish art or keep an office in Dublin, but in 2012 they enjoyed a bonanza in sharing the big Mount Congreve House sale in Waterford with Mealy’s. Bonhams, in contrast, having opened an office here under the direction of Jane Beattie, have been very active in sourcing the Irish market (Fig) . Sotheby’s have taken the middle course in retaining their Dublin office while cherry picking some valuable pictures like Orpen’s Portrait of Rose (£577,000), Roderic O’Conor’s Pont Aven £250,000 and three oils by Paul Henry totalling (£370,000) for their combined English and Irish sale in May 2012.
John Mulcahy is the Editor of the Irish Arts Review.