Almost two years ago, in May 2015 an exhibition of Irish art opened in London’s Mall Galleries. ‘The Art of a Nation’s’ distinctive feature was that all the work on show had come from a single collection, assembled over many years by Frances Ruane for AIB Bank. This collection had its origins back in the late 1970s and was continually enriched thereafter by judicious purchases. Following the recent banking crisis, when the state took responsibility for many banking institutions, thirty-nine key works hitherto in AIB’s possession were handed over and are now in the care of Cork’s Crawford Gallery. The remainder of the collection remains with AIB, and the London show featured items from both sources, thereby featuring not just pictures by the likes of Yeats, Lavery, O’Conor and Henry but other more recent names like Willie Doherty and Hughie O’Donoghue.
While it is acknowledged that the greatest responsibility for the creation of the AIB collection lay with Frances Ruane, there is no doubt that she received support from parties within the bank such as Michael Carroll who died last September. Some of his own collection is due to be sold in Dublin in early April by de Veres. Among the lots once owned by Carroll are three fine paintings by William Scott, all dating from the first half of the 1970s and excellent examples of the artist’s pared-back still lifes. The earliest and largest, an oil (Fig 5), carries a pre-auction estimate of €60,000-€90,000, while the other two, both gouaches (one with pastel) are both expected to make €14,000-€18,000. These admirable pictures would enhance any collection, not least that of a financial institution were these still in the market to buy art.
Irish Art Auction, de Veres, 4 April 2017.