ESB to sell part of corporate art collection

Artists represented are Markey Robinson, Tony O’Malley, Frank McKelvey, Norah McGuinness and Peter Collis.

Ireland's State-owned electricity company, the ESB, is to sell a substantial portion of its corporate art collection by public auction.

The sale is the latest disposal of corporate art following sales by Bank of Ireland, the former Anglo-Irish Bank and Independent News and Media.

Following a competitive tender, the ESB has selected Adam’s Auctioneers in Dublin to sell 148 paintings.

The auctioneers said “the ESB has acquired art over a long period” but many of the paintings had been in storage “due to the reduction in the number of buildings occupied by the ESB and the move to open-plan office space”.


The paintings have a combined top estimate of about €170,000 – a relatively modest sum for an art auction.

Several landscapes

Many are Irish landscapes and among the artists represented are Markey Robinson, Tony O’Malley, Frank McKelvey, Norah McGuinness and Peter Collis.

The highest-priced painting is Hidden Landscape by Sligo- born artist Patrick Collins, formerly in the collection of the late Sir Basil Goulding. It is expected to sell for up to €10,000.

Other notable lots include Claddagh Quay, Galway by Cecil Maguire and Road to the Beach by Patrick Hennessy which both have top estimates of €5,000; and, a photo-realist painting, The Village of Kilmallock, Co Limerick by Mark Kelly estimated at €1,000 to €2,000 (pictured).

But many of the paintings, especially by lesser-known artists, have estimates well below €1,000 – some as low as €80-€120 – and so may attract interest from the general public and not just traditional art collectors.

James O’Halloran, managing director of Adam’s, said the paintings from ESB would go on public view from December 14th in the salesroom on St Stephen’s Green where the auction will take place on December 16th.

The ESB is not selling its entire corporate art collection and will retain ownership of art which “relates directly to the organisation’s development and captures milestones and special events in the company’s history”.

Among the paintings not being sold are the famous images of the building of the hydro-electric facilities at Ardnacrusha on the Shannon in the 1920s, and Poulaphouca on the Liffey in the 1940s, by Seán Keating.

The ESB said the sale did not mean an end to the company’s sponsorship of art and it “remains committed to supporting the arts in Ireland”.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques