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 has suffered in latter years, 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. About 20 per cent of bids at the James Adam Country House Collections sale at Slane last autumn came from European buyers via the internet. In December 2011 Christie’s first ever on-line only auction of lots from the Elizabeth Taylor Collection generated over 57,000 bids. More than half of them (54%) had never bid at Christie’s before. The auction brought in over $9.5 million in additional sales.
In first six months of 2012 growth in on-line activity at Christie’s saw a 15% increase in the number of clients bidding on line and a 20% increase in visitors to the company website. Collectors from 124 countries registered to bid at global auctions In 2011 a total of 29 per cent of Christie’s sales were secured on line via Christie’s Live, excluding the Elizabeth Taylor online only sale. More and more auction bids are made online. BidNow, Sotheby’s online bidding service, became available for all auctions worldwide in autumn 2010 and Sotheby’s launched an application for the iPhone and iPad, available for free download in the iTunes App Store.
In April 2011 ArtPrice reported that a staggering two and a half billion users have triggered a dramatic acceleration in on-line art sales. The 2011 British Antique Dealers’ Association survey showed that the proportion of sales made through the internet doubled from 4% in 2009 to 8% in 2010. Annual sales of BADA members amounted to an estimated £698 million, almost unchanged from the previous year. The market is changing. We aim to keep you in touch with these changes.