The Irish Art Market in 2018

 

The highest price achieved by an Irish artist at auction in 2018 was the £1,000,000 paid for Sean Scully’s Landline Green Sea at Phillips Auctioneers, London. The man from Inchicore is part of the global art market and his work is sold in Hong Kong, the US, London and even Austria. No other Irish artist comes near Scully in terms of international reach (if excluding Francis Bacon). Although there is the occasional sale abroad for other Irish artists, in general the Irish art market for their work is confined to Ireland and the UK.

All Irish auction houses reported a good year. The highest price achieved was €370,000 for Pilot Sligo River/Piolota Abhann Sligeach by Jack B Yeats at Whyte’s. Also at Whytes, another Yeats, The Man with the Wrinkled Face, sold for €245,000. They also achieved €200,000 for Louis le Brocquy’s Image of Samuel Beckett, the highest price paid for a le Brocquy in 2018. Further le Brocquy hammer prices were €80,000 for Homage to John Montague at Whyte’s and the €68,000 for Image of James Joyce at Adam’s. Ian Whyte, managing director of Whyte’s Auctioneers stated that “2018 was our best year since 2007 with a total turnover of €8 million, of which over €7 million was for art”. Ian Whyte also remarked that female artists did notably well in 2018 – citing Margaret Clarke, Mary Swanzy, Mainie Jellett and Norah McGuinness. Exposure through major exhibitions at IMMA and the NGI certainly helped boost the stock of Swanzy and the relatively unknown Margaret Clarke.

Ian Whyte also remarked that female artists did notably well in 2018 – citing Margaret Clarke, Mary Swanzy, Mainie Jellett and Norah McGuinness.

De Vere’s are inclined to do well with living artists such as John Shinnors and Donald Teskey. For example, Shinnors’ Morning Dance sold there for €20,000 – his best price in 2018 and twice its reserve. However, one of de Vere’s most notable results in 2018 was for another living artist – the super-realist painter John Doherty. The €66,000 hammer price for John & Denis Mangan’s Shop, Killorglin, Co Kerry was more than twice its lower guide price. This was not, remarkably, the highest price achieved by Doherty to date. In 2007 James Adam and Bonham’s achieved €84,000 for Maxol Lubrication, Dingle. De Vere’s top result by some way was the €280,000 for William Scott’s Painting 1959 , yet another confirmation of how keen the appetite out there is for Scott. Roderic O’Conor’s Breton Girl Reading went for €88,000.

Less than a dozen paintings by Walter Osborne came under the hammer in 2018. The best price achieved was the €165,000 for Counting the Flock at Adam’s. Adam’s other six-figure sale was for The Belle of Chinatown by Jack B Yeats which sold at €108,000. This was an unusual painting that emerged from one of Yeats’ trips to New York. Adam’s seem to do particularly well with Paul Henry’s and four of its top ten sales were by him – the highest being Landscape with Cottages that sold for €60,000.

Morgan O’Driscoll had a very busy year with its online auctions which can throw up interesting work at reasonable prices. However its best results came from its Important Irish and International Art sale at the RHA in November. Some notable hammer prices included €84,000 for The Creole by Jack B Yeats and €50,000 for Waterville, Co Kerry by Paul Henry. Morgan O’Driscoll also recorded the highest price for a Teskey in 2018 – Gold Rush sold for €16,000.

A look across all the auction houses in 2018 confirms that William Scott, Sir John Lavery and Jack B Yeats continue to be the most sought after artists – with Paul Henry not lagging far behind.

A look across all the auction houses in 2018 confirms that William Scott, Sir John Lavery and Jack B Yeats continue to be the most sought after artists – with Paul Henry not lagging far behind. The competition for good works by William Scott is particularly keen – his results in 2018 are not far behind the best he has ever achieved. Lavery and Yeats still lag well behind the halcyon days of 20 years ago when Lavery’s The Bridge at Grez sold at Christie’s for £1,321,500 and Yeats regularly sold for well over one million euro. While it’s hardly fair to say Louis le Brocquy’s star is waning, a noticeable number of his paintings failed to meet their reserves in 2018. This was also the case with Roderic O’Conor, even though he was in the news in 2018 with a major exhibition at the NGI. O’Conor’s highest price achieved was £295,000 for the superb and uncharacteristic Romeo and Juliet at Sotheby’s. This was his only six-figure result and falls a long way short of the £792,000 he achieved in 2005 for La Lisiere-du-bois also at Sotheby’s UK.

Amongst living artists, aside from those already mentioned, Rowan Gillespie had a very good year, buoyed by his remarkable results at the Brian P Burns auction at Sotheby’s where most of his pieces achieved multiples of their reserves. Six of his top seven prices were achieved in 2018 – spread across three different auction houses –De Veres, Whytes and Sotheby’s,. The highest Gillespie price realised was £52,000 for The Settlers at Sotheby’s. Another active sculptor Patrick O’Reilly, achieved his best price at auction by some way with Marching On which sold at de Vere’s for €50,000.

Christie’s in London also enjoyed some notable results in 2018 achieving £180,000 for F.E McWilliam’s Woodhenge – the second highest price that artist has achieved at auction; £180,000 for Sean Scully’s M.18.04; and £180,000 for William Scott’s Reclining Nude.

As mentioned, William Scott was one of the most sought after Irish artists at auction in 2018. His highest price was realised at Sotheby’s where Berlin Blues 2 sold for £600,000. At Bonhams there was a strong interest in Jack B Yeats moody and portentous Donnelly’s Hollow which sold for £280,000. Bonhams also sold a sporting Lavery, Study for Ascot in the Rain, for £150,000.

A work by William Ashford, the 18th Century English-born artist who lived most of his life in Ireland is a rare figure to see at auction. Good works by him commanded six-figure sums in the pre-recession days. His Views of Maynooth Castle hammered down at £75,000 at Bonhams.

Looking ahead to 2019 Ian Whyte is optimistic but adds a cautionary note that must surely resonate across the entire Irish art market: “We think the demand will continue in 2019 but Brexit, if it happens, could put the damper on sales to and from the UK, with the re-introduction of VAT at point of entry.”

John P O’Sullivan

 

* All prices quoted in tables and this essay are hammer prices and do not include buyer’s premium.

Irish Top 10
Jack B. Yeats Pilot Sligo River / Piolota Abhann Sligeachs sold by Whytes on 01 October 2018 for €370,000
William Scott Painting 1959 sold by De Veres on 12 June 2018 for €280,000.00
Jack B. Yeats The Man with the Wrinkled Face sold by Whytes on 26 November 2018 for €245,000
Louis Le Brocquy Image of Samuel Beckett sold by Whytes on 26 November 2018 for €200,000
Jack B. Yeats Morning Glory, 1945 sold by Whytes on 28 May 2018 for €175,000
Walter Frederick Osborne Counting the Flock sold by Adams on 30 May 2018 for €165,000
Paul Henry Killary Bay sold by Whytes on 28 May 2018 for €140,000
Patrick Heron Bedroom, Mousehole sold by Whytes on 01 October 2018 for €125,000
Jack Butler Yeats The Belle of Chinatown sold by Adams on 30 May 2018 for €108,000
Paul Henry Landscape, West of Ireland sold by Whytes on 26 Feb 2018 for €90,000

UK/Irish Top 10
Sean Scully Landline Green Sea sold by Phillips on 27 June 2018 for £1,000,000
Sean Scully Grey Red sold by Phillips on 08 March 2018 for £950,000
Sean Scully Passenger Red White sold by Sotheby’s on 6 October 2018 for £480,000
Sean Scully M.18.04 sold by Christies on 19 June 2018 for £400,000.00
Jack B. Yeats Pilot Sligo River / Piolota Abhann Sligeach sold by Whytes on 01 October 2018 for €370,000
Jack B. Yeats Sunday Evening in September sold by Sotheby’s on 11 September 2018 for £320,000
Roderic O’ConorRomeo and Juliet’ sold by Sotheby’s on 21 November 2018 for £295,000
William Scott Still Life sold by Sotheby’s on 21 November 2018 for £290,000
Jack B. Yeats Donnelly’s Hollow sold by Bonhams on 13 June 2018 for £280,00
William Scott Painting 1959 sold by De Veres on 12 June 2018 for €280,000
Jack B. Yeats Misty Morning sold by Sotheby’s on 21 November 2018 for £230,000
Jack B. Yeats The Man with the Wrinkled Face sold by Whytes on 26 November 2018 for €245,000

 

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