Ireland Auctions Debtor Art

An Andy Warhol “Dollar Sign” is among artworks worth as much as $3 million being sold by Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to recoup some of the debts of real-estate investor Derek Quinlan. How ironic as Art Kabinett collectors watch a "dollar sigh" go off to auction to cover investor losses -- thus reinforcing Warhol's original commoditization of art. Christie’s International, on the instructions of NAMA, will offer 14 works from an unidentified private collection at auctions in New York and London in November, the auction house said in an e-mail. The collector was named yesterday as Quinlan by four dealers with knowledge of the matter. Quinlan, a former tax inspector, was one of Ireland’s biggest real estate investors during the “Celtic Tiger” property boom. NAMA is an Irish government agency created to buy risky commercial loans from the country’s beleaguered banks. NAMA took control of some of Quinlan assets in April after the investor failed to present and agree a debt repayment plan. “These artworks were given to NAMA as security for various loans,” the agency’s spokesman, Ray Gordon, managing director of Gordon MRM media relations, said in an interview. “It has now moved to realize their value.” The blue and pink Warhol canvas will be included in Christie’s Nov. 9 contemporary-art sale in New York with an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. Alex Katz’s “Ace Airport” is valued at $150,000 to $200,000. Christie’s Nov. 17 auction of 20th century British art in London will feature 11 ex-Quinlan works. William Scott’s 1969 abstract “Still Life Variations 2” is priced at as much as 300,000 pounds ($471,000), while “Man Doing Accounts” by Jack B. Yeats -- a long-standing favorite artist with wealthy Irish collectors -- is tagged at 120,000 pounds to 180,000 pounds. The latter sold for 300,000 pounds at Christie’s in 2007. The collection’s works are estimated at as much as 1.9 million pounds. Quinlan sold some more valuable paintings before NAMA took control of his assets, said dealers. He bought the figure-packed 1946 L.S. Lowry fairground scene “Good Friday, Daisy Nook” from the London-based dealer Richard Green, who’d paid a record 3.8 million pounds for it at Christie’s in June 2007. The work was subsequently sold for an undisclosed loss to another gallery, said dealers. Green also sold the Irish collector the Scott abstract offered by NAMA. A telephone call to Coroin Limited, the Mayfair-based holding company for Quinlan’s Maybourne Hotel Group, produced no contact details for the Irish businessman. The Maybourne Hotel Group had no contact details. Irish Collectors. “Now that NAMA has put its foot in the water, there may be a few more of these sales,” James O’Halloran, managing director of the Dublin-based auctioneers James Adam & Sons, said in an interview. “You can count the number of Irish developers with decent art collections on one hand, though. Most people who bought at the height of the market are hanging on to their paintings until things get better.” On average, prices of 20th-century Irish art remain 50 percent lower than they were in 2007, said O’Halloran. Adam’s sold the corporate art collection of Bank of Ireland Plc for 1.5 million euros ($2 million) in November. Allied Irish Banks Plc (ALBK) has a more valuable art collection, dealers said. In recent years, the bank purchased works by contemporary Irish artists with international reputations such as Sean Scully and William Scott, as well as paintings by Yeats and tapestries by le Brocquy, dealers said. “We are currently working with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to ensure we maximize public access to the art collection. The sale of the collection is not under consideration,” Ronan Sheridan, press officer for Allied Irish Banks, said in an e-mailed statement. Allied Irish is the country’s second-largest bank by assets. In August, the taxpayer bought 5 billion euros of new shares in the company, raising the public stake to 99.8 percent.