THOUGH his background is in news and political journalism Des O’Sullivan has had a long standing interest in antiques and fine art. He has contributed a popular and successful antique and fine arts page to the Irish Examiner every Saturday for over 20 years. In 1990 Irish art was an esoteric pursuit for the very few and the market, such as it was, was dominated by Yeats, Lavery and Orpen. In the mid 1990’s Sotheby’s and Christie’s introduced their annual Irish Sales in London. The growing interest in Irish art abroad, partly fuelled by the Irish diaspora, was matched by a new appreciation of Irish art and artists at home. Irish art is now in the mainstream.
The market for antique Irish furniture continues to suffer, though the best pieces are recession proof. There is a scarcity of the very finest pieces reaching the market. Regular auctions and fairs are a feature of the antique trade in Ireland. Here as elsewhere on-line bidding is growing in importance year on year.
Christie’s, which reported £5.1 billion worth of art sales in 2014, the highest total in the history of the art market, stated that digital access and geographic activity in 2014 helped grow audiences. In 2014 30% of buyers were new to Christie’s. A report for The European Fine Art fair calculated that in 2014, internet sales made up six per cent of global art sales, totalling 3.3 billion euro. Sotheby’s reckon that their link with eBay from April 2015 will bring their sales to a potential audience of 155 million people worldwide.
Art insurance specialists Hiscox reported in 2015 that online sales increased by 41 per cent in 2014 over 2013, from $1.57 billion (£105 billion) to $2.64 billion. The report calculates that at this rate, the online sales market will reach $6.3 billion by 2019. Research also found that investment in art is more of a motivator than expected with 63 per cent of respondents to the questionnaire responding in the affirmative; that 24 per cent of them were influenced in their buying decisions by related posts in the social media; and that 41 per cent said the average price they pay is less than £1,000 pounds.