Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Adams Auction - Bank of Ireland Collection

Because of the huge interest this auction was moved from Adam's to the Shelbourne. I had to run the gauntlet of a few well-turned out protestors with uniformly well-produced posters, Ballagh's influence perhaps. He was (some would say is) a graphic designer. He was very vocal in his opposition to the auction. The posters suggested that in some way the auction was robbing the people of their national heritage. This is a nonsense. It both flatters the work on show and neglects the fact that the work was hardly accessible to the people when the BOI owned it. Anyway IMMA had their pick of the choice pieces.

Although we weren't told so beforehand, it quickly became apparent that there were no reserves. A unique situation at an Irish art auction. However, as the estimates were set very low, most pieces went for the upper side of the estimates with quite a lot exceeding this. And there was lots of competition for most pieces. There were bargains to be had - a dark Dan O'Neill estimated from €6 to €8 K went for €4.5 K - but not many. A Dillon estimated at €35 K went for €50 K and Martin Gale estimated at €6 K went for €14.5 K. Le Brocquy and O'Malley were quite weak - all of the O'Malleys going for below the lower estimate and the Le Brocquys just about making the lower estimate. The Campbells sold well, as did some very dodgy McSweeneys. A poor Shinnors piece limped towards the mid-point in its estimate.

The only painting that remained unsold was a reasonable Barrie Cooke landscape. A resounding success for Adams but not a typical auction as many were buying for the cachet of having a piece from the BOI collection.

Monday, November 15, 2010

John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey

I was bored out of my tiny mind. This was stodgy, stagey old-fashioned theatre. The script by Frank McGuinness seemed stilted and occasionally clunky ("This disgrace breaks me to the bone") but that wasn't the crucial factor. My problem was believing in the central premise of the play - the battle for the heart and mind of Erhart. The concerns and mores of bourgeois Norway in the 19th Century don't carry enough of the universal to engage the interest. There were of course echoes of our own banking crisis in Borkman's plight - but these were peripheral to the main action. The set was impressive and the acting of the female characters was mighty fine - especially the gorgeous Lindsay Duncan. Even Fiona Shaw impressed, managing to harness her customary histrionics. I wasn't that taken by Alan Rickman's interpretation of Borkman - too low-key and mannered. And speak up man for God's sake.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Hugh Lane Revisited

What a wonderful amenity the Hugh Lane is. I hadn't been there for years so I went up last Tuesday to see the new Sean Scullys and to check out the collection in general. There's a great sense of spaciousness - the paintings are given plenty of room to breathe and they can be enjoyed in isolation from contending images. It's also nice and warm and would make a great sanctuary for cold tramps, but I suspect Barbara Dawson would not countenance any such blots on her escutcheon. I noticed a lot of yawning amongst the sparse attendants. What kind of job is that - sitting around all day. You'd want a very rich inner life.

The permanent collection is very much a mixed bag. There's worthy stuff by Mary Swanzy, Norah McGuinness, Orpen and Leech but do we really need mutiple Ciaran Lennons? Or Brian Maguires? Or anything by Mick Mulcahy. There is a smashing Jack Yeats (There is no Night), and a stark early Le Brocquy - not underivative of Francis Bacon. The Scully room is a bit of a disappointment - only three pieces, two very fine and one, I opine, a dud. The shrine to Bacon is a hoot. Can he really have worked in that chaos. Check out the multiple Krug boxes and note that he was a VAT 69 man as well.

The cafe down in the basement is a step up on your average museum cafe. There's an elaborate menu and waitress service only. There's also a collection of cakes that would do a Viennese emporium proud. It was empty apart from staff when I visited in mid-afternoon.

On the way out it did my heart good to see that heroic bust of Michael Collins by the great Seamus Murphy.