Belfast Telegraph

Man about town

Townies vie with tweeds for art sale

By Ian Hill

PREVIEWS for the auctioneers Sothebys annual Irish Sale present a rare cross section of what you might call Old Money and New Money.

PREVIEWS for the auctioneers Sothebys annual Irish Sale present a rare cross section of what you might call Old Money and New Money.

Many of the former, in tweeds, are up from the country, admiring art which might once have been commonplace on their rural estates. The New Money is there to purchase.

Among a stretch of paintings hanging along the long curve of the wall of the Waterfront Hall's upper gallery sits Sir John Lavery's 'Sketch for The Tennis Party'. In the catalogue it is described, arcanely as the 'Property of a Gentleman'.

At auction in London on May 18, it could fetch up to £350,000.

Grant Ford, Sothebys' Director of Irish Art, deems this his second most favourite work on show. Top of his list would be Sir William Orpen's portrait 'Gardenia St George with Riding Crop' - and a bunch of pheasant feathers in her bonnet. Gardenia was daughter of Orpen's lover, an immensely rich American banker's wife. It will fetch perhaps £600,00 on the day.

Sothebys' man in Northern Ireland, Bill Montgomery, is there with his wife Daphne and another of the auctioneering house's chaps Hugo Swire. Hugo confirms much of the work in the Irish sale comes from ex-pat families in the old colonies, spurred by exchange rates and rising prices. Bill is full of his daughter Flora's critically acclaimed career on the boards and the silver screen.

Following her succèss de scandale, playing briefly nude in the Lyric Theatre's production of Strinberg's 'Miss Julie', she's had tremendous reviews in Neil La Bute's 'Blast' just finished at Dublin's Gate Theatre and much is expected of her performances in the movies 'When Brendan Met Trudy', released next month.

Another painting attributed as the 'Property of a Gentleman', and much admired by painter Cherith McKinstry and her husband Robert the architect who oversaw the first restoration of both Crown Liquor Saloon and Grand Opera House, is Roderic O'Conor's 'Houses at Lezaven'.

Dentist and Art Tank Gallery owner Bernard Jaffa, says his daughter Lucy has her eye on a smaller O'Conor.

Entrepreneur Mervyn Solomon, attending with his wife Ann and friends and gallery owners Bill and Nancy Huffam, admits to being a great O'Conor fan himself. Meat baron Larry Powell, who financed a film biogrphy of O'Conor, is also in evidence.

Brian Ferran, ex-CEO of the Arts Council, is off to hang a show of his own paintings in L'Enclume Gallery in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. His wife Denise, of the Ulster Museum, is seeking out work by William Leech, whose sojurn in Boston she's off to study on a Fulbright Scholarship. Artist TP 'Terry' Flanagan and his wife Sheila remember when they recommended a friend to buy William Scott's 'White on White with Green Beans' for a seventh of what it would cost him now. Liquor merchant Paul Hunt and his wife Patricia study the catalogue intently. Alan Liddle jokes that he'd love to be able to afford the Louis le Brocquy's and Jack B Yeats's he's been admiring.

Raymond and Gina, Lord and Lady O'Neill are surrounded with friends. Cavehill Gallery co-owner Joe McWilliams, finding himself about to be photographed with Celia O'Neill also of Shane's Castle admiring a Gerard Dillon painting, quips he should have come wearing his chain of office as President of the Royal Ulster Academy.

Belfast Telegraph


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