Irish businessman puts £5million worth of art up for auction to 'pass on the joy'
Life & Style

Irish businessman puts £5million worth of art up for auction to 'pass on the joy'

AN exceptional group of artworks owned by Sir Michael Smurfit will be auctioned via Sothebys at a series of sales due to be held over the course of a year.

More than 50 items belonging to the Irish businessman - which previously furnished his home in Co. Kildare as well as The K Club, which he owned until February 2020 - will go under the hammer between September 2020 and 2021.

Among them are significant works by Jack B. Yeats, John Lavery and William Orpen.

The collection also features Louis le Brocquy’s Travelling Woman with Newspaper, one of the artist’s most significant works.

Nineteen works from the collection, with a combined pre-sale low estimate of £2.6 million/ €2.9 million, will headline Sotheby’s Irish Art sale in London on September 9.

The sale will be preceded by a public exhibition, by appointment, at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin from August 27-30.

Le Brocquy's 'Travelling Woman with Newspaper' pictured inside Sir Michael Smurfit's home

Due to the size of the collection, a further group of Mr Smurfitt’s Irish works will be offered in Sotheby’s Irish Art sale in 2021.

Sir Michael’s collecting tastes also diverged beyond Irish painters, most particularly towards Scandinavia with his acquisition of a selection of pictures by the Swedish artists Carl Larson and Anders Zorn.

Other highlights include Alexej von Jawlensky’s Abend in Reichestshausen and Sir Alfred Munning’s The New Standard, Presentation of Standards 1927.

Arabella Bishop, Head of Sotheby’s Ireland, said: “Many of the works in this collection will be familiar to us from the walls of The K Club and, together with those from Sir Michael’s private residence, it is a great honour for us to offer a collection of this calibre at auction.”

She added: “One of my earliest memorable moments at Sotheby’s was our Irish Art sale in 2000 which saw the record price for Louis le Brocquy’s Travelling Woman with Newspaper, an iconic image by one of Ireland’s leading artists.

“The works being offered in the Irish Art sales over the next year are by Ireland’s greatest painters – Jack B. Yeats, Sir William Orpen, Sir John Lavery, Louis le Brocquy, amongst others.

“It is a market that was catapulted onto a global platform in the 1990s by advocates such as Sir Michael, who has played a key role in bestowing Irish artists with the reputation they deserved and still deserve today.

"We hope these Irish artists, together with the works in other categories, will appeal and excite collectors worldwide.”

Mr Smurfit, who is the former chairman of the Smurfitt Kappa packaging group, said: “Collecting art has been a wonderful adventure over the last thirty years or so – the friendships and friendly rivalries formed, the sweet successes and the bitter ones that got away.

“At the start, I had little and knew even less. I feel incredibly fortunate to have owned many beautiful paintings and deepened my knowledge of many exceptional artists.

"Their works have given me great pleasure, and many others who have enjoyed those that were in The K Club.”

He added: “The time has now come for me to pass some of them on and I have decided therefore to put them to auction. I hope others will be able to gain the same excitement and joy from them as I have done.”

In total, over 50 works from the collection of Sir Michael Smurfit will be presented in a series of auctions to be held in London across the calendar year, with a combined pre-sale low estimate of £5.3 million/€5.9 million.