Bank of Ireland Raises $2 Million in Art Sale After Shares Drop

"Device" by Patrick Scott. The work was one of the 145 works being sold from the collection of the Bank of Ireland by the Dublin-based auction house James Adam & Sons on Nov. 24, 2010. It was estimated to fetch between 5,000 euros and 10,000 euros at hammer prices and fetched 11,800 euros with fees. Source: James Adam & Sons Ltd. via Bloomberg

Bank of Ireland Plc raised 1.5 million euros ($2 million) last night as it began selling off its art collection in Dublin.

Proceeds from the auction of 145 works won’t be used to offset the debt of the embattled bank. Instead, funds raised from this and any future sales will be added to an existing community and charitable investment program. Ireland’s largest bank’s shares plunged for a third day yesterday as the government prepared to inject more capital.

“When the sale was originally conceived, it was a way of convincing the public the bank was cutting back on inessential expenses,” Dublin-based dealer Dominic Milmo-Penny said in an interview. “The money should be used to give a few pence back to the shareholders. But this is Ireland.”

Other banks may follow with art sales, even after prices of some contemporary Irish artists dropped by more than 50 percent since the financial crisis. Earlier yesterday, as talks on an 85 billion-euro bailout package neared conclusion, Ireland set out a four-year recovery plan of spending cuts and tax rises.

The Bank of Ireland art sale was held by James Adam & Sons Ltd. in a crowded Great Room at the Shelbourne Hotel, where the Irish constitution was drafted in 1922. The total with fees beat a low estimate of 900,000 euros, based on hammer prices. All but one of the lots found buyers, said Adam’s.

The top price was the 64,900 euros paid in the room for the 1910 Paul Henry landscape “Clouds at Sunset,” valued at 30,000 euros to 50,000 euros. A 1940s “Self-Portrait Wearing a Hat” by Sean Keating fetched 37,760 euros.

‘Celtic Tiger’

Demand for Ireland’s art has declined along with the wealth of its real-estate millionaires. In 2006, during the boom “Celtic Tiger” years, Adam’s sold a 1980s Louis le Brocquy oil of Samuel Beckett’s head for 310,000 euros. Last night, le Brocquy’s “Study Towards an Image of James Joyce” fetched 59,000 euros.

“I’d be surprised if we can get more than one other decent auction out of the collection,” James O’Halloran, Adam’s managing director, said in an interview. “We’ll have to think about what we can do with the cheaper contemporary items,” said O’Halloran, who put a total value of about 2 million euros on the bank’s art.

The Bank of Ireland collection, begun in the 1970s primarily to support emerging local artists, has about 2,000 works. Further government capital injections may make the bank the fifth lender to fall under majority state control in less than two years.

Vintage Apple

The day before, a less traditional kind of collectable was attracting attention at a sale in London. An example of Apple Inc.’s first personal computer was estimated to sell for between 100,000 pounds ($157,850) and 150,000 pounds at Christie’s International on Nov. 23.

Entered by a North American collector, the Apple-1 was offered with its original 1976 shipping box and a typed letter from company founder Steve Jobs, who dispatched the computers from his parents’ garage. They were priced at $666.66 and consisted of a motherboard without a casing, keyboard or monitor. Only about 200 were made, said Christie’s.

“This is the first time a major auction house has offered an Apple-1 for sale,” Julian Wilson of Christie’s said. “Though items do appear at specialist fairs and on EBay, the collecting market for early computing is still in its infancy.”

The computer sold for 133,250 pounds to the Italian private collector, Marco Boglione, whose brother was bidding in the room. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who designed the Apple-1, was also at the auction, Christie’s said.

The same seller also entered an “ENIGMA” machine, the cipher device used by the German military in World War II, which sold for 67,250 pounds.

Geneva Gagosian

Gagosian Gallery, the world’s biggest commercial art dealership, has opened a branch in Geneva at 19 place de Longemalle with a show called “Giacometti in Switzerland.”

The gallery is the 10th that Larry Gagosian has established since founding the company in Los Angeles in 1979. He has spaces in the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Greece and France.

Last month, the dealer, 65, was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur during a private view at his new space in Paris. He also topped Art Review’s Power 100 list.

Giacometti New York

Giacometti’s years spent working in France are the focus of the inaugural exhibition at the New York-based dealership Eykyn Maclean.

The show features about 100 of the artist’s sculptures, paintings and drawings, mainly produced in Paris from 1927 to 1966. The not-for-sale show, accompanied by a book from its curator Michael Peppiatt, includes a number of pieces from the artist’s heirs not previously exhibited. It closes on Dec. 18.

(Scott Reyburn writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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