Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ruminations on the Art Market

I attended the de Vere art auction in the D4 hotel yesterday evening to take the current temperature of the market. There was a modest crowd - around 170 I'd estimate and a smaller number of lots than usual (127). The estimates for the work were very modest indeed - in general less than 50% of their value during the boom. The auction houses are pricing to sell - forgetting their erstwhile clients who bought for investment. A Felim Egan that sold for €10K about four years ago was estimated at €3K to €5K (although it actually went for €7K), and a large Gwen O'Dowd (42 x 53 inches) at a paltry €800 to €1,200. So bargains to be had.

The market has definitely got more refined and discerning. Bad paintings by well-known artists are not selling and buyers are mostly sticking to the lower end of the estimates. A high percentage of work (around 30%) was unsold - much of it dross. Some highlights: Dan O'Neill was strong, King and Queen going for €27K (€7K above lower estimate) and Jessica for €14K (€4K above lower estimate); a bucolic piece by Frank McKelvey got €20K (€6K above); two standard Paul Henrys just about made their reserves of €60K and €70K; Gerard Dillon was weak and a 3 of his pieces didn't sell; an exquisite Conor Fallon horse in polished steel (the star of the show for me) went for €13K (€6K above lower estimate); the uneven Sean McSweeny and the uneven Tony O'Malley got uneven prices and Teskey and Shinnors hung in there just above their estimates. But the large Gwen O'Dowd painting from her Grand Canyon series at €800 was the bargain of the show. She may not be pleased but the buyer certainly was.

The image above is Dan O'Neill's Jessica.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gillian Welch at the Grand Canal Theatre

My first visit to the Grand Canal Theatre and I'm impressed. Easy car park access, helpful staff, decent sized bar (designed for interval drinks), roomy seats, and great acoustics and sight lines. I would be happy to attend a play, a lecture, or a classical music event here - but it's way too staid for the kind of music Gillian Welch plays. She needs Whelan's or at worst the Olympia to do justice to the mixture of country, blues, folk and bluegrass she delivers. Shit kicking music needs a grungy venue. At an early stage she chided the crowd for being subdued - a valid complaint but the blame lies with the formal layout of the venue.

But that's a mere quibble for this was the best gig I've seen in Dublin since the last Ry Cooder one. Having been unwell lately I was a bit disgruntled and self-absorbed but I was soon lifted out of it. She ranged over her back catalogue for two hours or so without putting a cowboy-booted foot wrong. I'd mention highlights except every song seemed a highlight - maybe Elvis Presley Blues and Time the Revelator or her haunting version of Neil Young's Pocahontas. Her pellucid voice and her seamless harmonies with her cowboy hatted partner Dave Rawlings were accompanied by some tasty guitar from both of them and the odd banjo interlude. She kept up a charming patter between songs and even treated us to a bit of tap dancing. Great show.

And by the way its Gillian as in gill rather than Jill.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How Infinitely Tedious ...

I for one was hoping that our team of boring well-organised journeymen would not qualify for Euro 2012. But having ingloriously dragged themselves out of a group containing such luminaries as Andorra, Albania and Macedonia they managed to see off the might of Estonia in the playoffs. Glory days eh. In the days when I gave a shit about soccer I watched them beat England and Italy.

The national frenzy has already begun and will continue unabated until the end of next summer. Already we've had a Credit Union official on the radio telling the aspirant dolts how they can garner the readies to facilitate their lumpen meanderings through Poland or the Ukraine. The country is heading for the abyss, the new government is avoiding any radical solutions (don't affront the civil service unions), and by the way we seem to have lost our sovereignty, but our boys in green are oblivious.

Maybe they are encouraged by the excessive soccer coverage on all media. There's a whole fleet of journalists out there trying to justify their existence by pontificating on what's a very simple game really. Chief amongst them is Johnny Giles who's special gift is for stating, at tedious length, the bleeding obvious. But he's not alone - there's a standing army of ex-players who vie with each other to inherit his mantle. Their common qualities seem to be a complete absence of wit, a limited vocabulary, and an ability to make a mountain out of a molehill. Step in Ron, Phil, Ronnie, and even St. Paul. The only one worth listening to is Graham Taylor - Newstalk's European correspondent - and he's got the inestimable advantage of seeing Messi play every week.

Fie on't.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Vue at the RHA: Observations

All creatures great and small from the Irish art scene turned up last Thursday at the RHA for Vue - a showcase for the leading contemporary Irish art galleries, not to be confused with the decidedly inferior Art Fair at the RDS. The attendance included Frank B. and the immaculately turned out Michael, Eamon the journalist, Campbell B. looking more spry than I've seen him for a while, Suzanne, Ger with fez, that tall languid guy with the long floppy grey hair, Mary late of the Hallward, big Eoin from IMMA, and of course J. (looking out for someone more important than the person she's talking to).

It seemed more a social than a selling scene - there was a huge turnout and a great buzz, but a definite dearth of red spots. The Taylor Gallery just inside the entrance to the main room seemed to belie this impression as they displayed five or six sold pieces - these however turned out to be tiny David Quinn works at €130 each. What a falling off was here from the halcyon days of Le Brocquy and O'Malley at their peak pulling power.

Moving on from the Taylor stand we came to the Rubicon Gallery which seemed to focus exclusively on Donald Teskey - not a bad thing I'd say. They were doing a roaring trade in his beautiful book of Connemara images (Donald gamely signing and schmoozing). The the stand displayed a fine selection of his oils, etchings and watercolours. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a gallery devoted to the work of one artist - but you wouldn't of course say this within hearing of the formidable Josephine lest a basilisk's retribution ensue. Two of the most impressive displays were the print works available from the Graphic Studio and the Stoney Road Press. In both cases the late lamented Bill Crozier's work loomed large but they had a lot more on offer. Nearby the Oliver Sears space was dominated by a fine Joseph Walsh glass-topped table on which I had to deter a couple of bibulous art matrons from depositing their glasses.

The amiable Paul Kane, looking a tad wan and fatigued, was attracting the very large gay vote. I like the way he pitches his prices but he desperately needs to look at his cheap and tatty labeling. A small thing but significant in a visually sophisticated milieu. The Kerlin was represented by a shorn David who is now looking to the burgeoning art scene in Abu Dhabi. Most galleries are now looking abroad for sales (especially London and New York) but this was a new one on me. Around the corner was Nicholas Gore-Grimes from the Crosse Gallery looking absurdly young. He's recently performed a cull on his stable of artists that included the fragrant Siobhan McDonald and the doughty Bridget Flannery. including the doughty Bridget Flannery. "Good for them and good for me" he reckoned.

Other things to catch my eye were a fine Le Brocquy etching of Seamus Heaney on sale at the IMMA stand for a mere €1,200; and a striking red heart-shaped organic piece by Eilis O'Connell.