Let there be light: Niamh Barry is the big name at Adam’s sale

Light sculptor is joined by icons of mid-century design including Niels Otto Møller and Finn Juhl

A piece of light sculpture by Dubliner Niamh Barry is the highlight of Adam’s Mid Century Modern sale, which also features contemporary and mid-century furniture by Niels Otto Møller, Erik Buch and Ole Wanscher.

Barry trained in ceramics at the National Gallery of Art and Design (NCAD), but her life then took a different route, and for over two decades she has transformed sculptural lighting. Her name is now internationally synonymous with lighting design.

Using ground-breaking technology, she has pushed the boundaries in lighting, and has been represented by renowned Manhattan dealer of 20th century design Todd Merrill and later Maison Gerard in New York, as well as Sara Myerscough in London.

In 2019 the National Museum of Ireland held Light on Earth, an exhibition dedicated to Barry, which celebrated her work as of one of Ireland’s best contemporary artists. Culminating in about 30 pieces a year, her art has graced the Central Bank of Ireland, and some of her larger works take more than 600 hours to make.


Appearing to float in thin air, the LED bulbs inside her sculptures throw off a light that glows at 2,700 Kelvin, which is the colour of natural fire. The highlight in Adam’s design section is Touch Vessels, which is the first piece by the designer to come to the secondary market. The twin piece, executed in 2019, is polished mirror with patinated and brushed solid bronze which hangs as a statement wall piece rather than from a ceiling (€20,000-€30,000).

Further highlights, and what the catalogue refers to as “standout lots”, are by Danish designer Niels Otto Møller. Founded in 1944 and now run by his son, the company continues to produce his cherished designs in Denmark with methods established 70 years ago. Though Møller first began exports to Germany and the United States, by 1974 they were exporting to Japan which remains the company’s largest market today. The company says it took five years for Møller to design each piece, which were designed around materials. This meant he produced fewer designs than his contemporaries, making them scarce, and sought after on the secondary market due to their sculptural quality.

Designated as “a very rare set” by Nicolas Gore Grimes of Adam’s, who curated the sale, are the eight Model 62 rosewood dining chairs listed with a €8,000-€12,000 estimate. Despite production methods being the same as they were mid-century, the choice of materials today means the company cannot not use rosewood, as it is an endangered species, which makes these collectors’ pieces. Its simple design with horizontal and vertical pieces almost flow into one another with a subtle pointed flourish on the leg fronts.

The second lot is a set of six Model 78 rosewood dining chairs (€2,000-€3,000) also by Møller. Simple and timeless, the company has often said it is literally impossible to pull a Møller chair apart. This is due to the fact that each chair has been made by hand, with tenons, mortises and dowels also glued by hand. As the company believes that “polishing machines treat most woods alike”, its furniture is also polished by hand.

It is quite an exceptional sale in terms of contemporary and mid-century furniture with more signature designs by Erik Buch, Gino Sarfatti, Marco Zanuso, Finn Juhl and Ole Wanscher. The online only timed auction will close on Tuesday, November 8th.

Scandi furniture

Keeping with the Scandinavian theme, Hegarty’s of Bandon are offering The Glenrichmond Collection this Tuesday, November 1st, which the house describes as “an eclectic private collection gathered by a Swedish diplomat and his wife who retired to Ireland having lived in Asia, the Middle East and the USA”.

While the majority of the furniture is from Sweden, the sale also has some important rugs from the Middle East, including an antique tri-medallion Afshar Persian floor rug (€250-€450). The live online sale also has a lifetime collection of European and Asian porcelain and ceramics which, it says, has reasonable estimates.

Just in time for Christmas, the National Antiques Fair in Limerick will take place at the city’s Racecourse in Patrickswell on November 19th and 20th, in what organiser Robin O’Donnell is calling “Ireland’s biggest fair by far, as the RDS was much smaller than usual this year”.

Members of the Irish Antique Dealers Association such as Treasures in Athlone and Courtville Antiques in Powerscourt will exhibit, as will O’Donnell for the first time in many years.

Meanwhile, after its opening by President Michael D Higgins on Thursday, an exhibition of new works in bronze by one of Ireland’s most celebrated sculptors, John Behan, is currently open at Solomon Fine Art on Balfe Street in Dublin until Saturday, November 19th.

The Way It Is: Ukrainian and Other Sculptures focuses on the plight of immigration and refugees with a focus on the current war in Ukraine, and also includes new examples of his iconic bulls, famine ships and oar boats.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables