Irish artworks from Michael Smurfit’s collection up for auction at Sotheby’s
It’s been a few weeks in the world of art auctions. In just six days, November 9-15, Christie’s New York made over $1 billion in its Marquee week sale, in which 31 new artist records were set, with the monumental canvas The Guilt of Gold by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Teeth reaching 40 million dollars (35 million euros). But perhaps more interestingly, Michael Winkelmann, under his pseudonym Beeple, made nearly $30 million (€27 million) for his Human One, “a kinetic video sculpture with a corresponding dynamic NFT. [non-fungible token]”. He’s had a year – considering he’s just turned 40 – since two of his works fetched a total of $99 million (€88 million) in the space of eight months.
Later, on November 15, Sotheby’s achieved a white glove result for the Macklowe collection, where not only did every lot sell, but four works fetched over $50 million (44 million euros) each, in a sale that exceeded 676 million dollars (598 million euros). ) in total. Not bad for a one-owner collection – although it was owned by now-divorced couple Harry and Linda Macklowe, who couldn’t agree on the value of their art treasure, so a judge ordered that it is sold at auction. Bidders from 25 countries registered and most of the top lots, including Le Nez by Alberto Giacometti, which sold for more than $78 million (69 million euros), were bought by buyers recorded in Asia.
Currently open and ending November 23, Sotheby’s Annual Irish Art Sale. A number of pieces come from the collection of Michael Smurfit, many of which adorned the walls of the K Club. In an interview with the auction house, Smurfit admits he saw the value in collecting good art “and the best pieces possible.” Now based in his 5,100m² (55,000 sq ft) home in Marbella, the retired businessman says the Spanish climate and atmosphere is simply not suitable for works by Irish artists, painted in a cold climate.
The selection is impressive, and in addition to Sotheby’s Modern British and Irish Art sale on November 23, there are 10 offerings by Jack B Yeats, smaller watercolors priced from €948 to €1,422 and three oils Medium: Engravings (€59,230 to €82,921); Boat Builder and the superb Face of Victory (both €82,921-€118,459), at A Welcome (€177,678-€296,129); A Nor’Western Town (€414,581 – €651,484) and South Pacific (€236,866 – €355,299).
For fans of William Orpen, the sale includes three works including a lovely portrait of the artist’s wife, Grace by Candlelight (€59,230 – €82,921). Sir John Lavery makes four appearances with scenes of penance at Lough Derg, the Spanish coast and two fine portraits: Mrs Adam at Dinner and Portrait of Mrs Charles Barker (both €82,921 to €118,459). From the collection of Joseph Stephen Cullinan, pioneer of the oil industry and civic champion in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, an unusual Paul Henry – The Great Blasket Island, Kerry (€59,230 – €94,767). He was executed in 1934, when Henry visited County Kerry with Mabel Young. Cullinan bought a number of Irish works, including another superb example by Henry (lot 12, Landscape of West Ireland €142,142 – €213,213) which features in the British Modern Art sale and Irish.
Contemporary offerings from the Irish Art Sale are Ink Sky Bindu Bowl by Grainne Watts, a spellbinding ceramic from 2020 (€3,554 – €5,923) and an incredible piece of photorealism by Gottfried Helnwein, the Austrian-Irish visual artist based at Castle Gurteen de la Poer in County Waterford. Red Sleep 24 (€47,394-€71,091) is subdued under a crimson wash and one could easily walk away thinking it was just a block of red color but closer examination reveals a face of child. It’s so realistic, there were a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from viewers during his show last week at the Royal Hibernian Academy when people found out it was actually a a painting. Louis le Brocquy, John Behan, Daniel O’Neill, Roderic O’Conor and a gigantic Double Portrait installation by Patrick Swift are also included in the sale. In total, the Irish sale should reach between 3 and 4.6 million euros.
Meanwhile, Dolan’s Galway auction house’s current art sale is open online, with over 250 lots, and closes on November 29.
A pen and ink drawing by Sir William Orpen is interesting. The Roscommon Fusilier depicts a young woman, hand on hip dressed in a military uniform sketched on the paper of the Metropolitan School of Art in Kildare Street, where Orpen taught in the early years of the 20th century. The sitter was Vera Hone, and it is, according to the auction house’s Niall Dolan, one of the artist’s most recognizable works (€10,000-12,500). Indeed, Hone was not alone her favorite model, she posed for so many paintings that Orpen numbered them rather than giving them titles.
A fabulous piece is Na Fir Ón Oiléan, which is an exceptional charcoal study by Sean Keating, in which two island men are embroiled in heated discussion. This is a large mintage and the first batch of Dolan’s sale, listed with an estimate of €16,000-20,000.