Ben Dunne sells a 10 million euro art collection

Businessman Ben Dunne is selling 39 paintings from his personal art collection, including Sketch for Pro-Cathedral, Dublin 1922 by John Lavery – the iconic painting from the funeral of Michael Collins, who was shot a century ago tomorrow.

n it, Belfast-born Lavery, who was in Ireland when Collins was killed at Béal na Bláth, Co Cork, captured the view he had of Collins’ funeral mass, six days later, from the perspective of the organ balcony in the Pro-Cathedral. This work, painted during the service, is widely considered an authentic snapshot of Collins’ funeral.

The Dunne Collection and Sale, through Gormleys Fine Art Auctioneers, includes Jack B Yeats’s Singing ‘My Dark Rosaleen’, Croke Parkwhich was also painted during the Irish Revolutionary period and commemorates the Bloody Sunday massacre at Dublin’s GAA grounds in November 1920.

It has been described by an art critic as “one of the masterpieces” of Yeats’ early style.

“We are at a stage where we are downsizing and we don’t have the space to display the full collection,” said former supermarket magnate Dunne (73),
who now runs a chain of gyms in Dublin, Meath and Laois. “So we are happy to bring some of it to the exhibition and sale.”

Known as the Ben and Mary Dunne Collection, named after the businessman and his wife, the 39 paintings, which include works by Irish artists Roderic O’Conor, Mary Swanzy and Walter Osborne, could fetch up to to 10 million euros.

Dunne was the central figure who ushered in the Age of Courts in the 1990s and 2000s after a bitter family feud with his sister, Margaret Heffernan, which led directly to the McCracken court and the subsequent disgrace of Charles Haughey, Michael Lowry and other important political and political figures. sales figures.

In November 1994 Dunne, who had succeeded his father, Ben Sr, as chairman of Ireland’s largest retail chain, Dunnes Stores, was ousted from the business with a payment of 125 million pounds sterling to avoid litigation between him and his surviving siblings, Frank, Margaret and Therese.

A few weeks later, he celebrated his newfound independence by buying his favorite painting, Lavery’s Sketch for the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin 1922, of Alan Hobart, a London merchant, for what was described at the time as “a large six-figure sum”. Hobart became artistic adviser to the Dunnes, and a few months later they bought Singing ‘The Dark Rosaleen’, Croke Park at Sotheby’s in London for £450,000.

Both paintings have since hung in a prominent place in Castleknock’s family home, Winterwood. Dunne is said to have joked with friends that “they [his family] can keep me away from the shops, but they can’t keep me from going to the paint shops,” according to Sam Smyth’s book, Thanks a million fat guys.

An exhibition and sale featuring the Dunne Collection will be held at Gormley Fine Art in Dublin from September 8-22, before moving to Belfast for two weeks.

“A great collection is more than a group of images, it is a work of art in its own right, in which the works of art that compose it, and the conversation between them, become more than the sum of their parts. the expert Mark Adams wrote in his preface to the catalog.

“Using their own brilliant eye for a painting and seeking the masterful guidance of the late Alan Hobart, Ben and Mary Dunne have formed a collection that captures Ireland in all its endless facets.”

Two other paintings by Lavery, described as “exceptional examples of his work”, will be presented in the exhibition. In The Living Room, Falconwood (1917), the artist was inspired by the elegant, sunny features of his friends’ Palladian-style Victorian villa in Blackheath, London. The third Lavery work in the sale, The Fisherwoman, Grez-sur-Loing (1884), shows a fisherwoman by a river in a French forest.

The sale will also include a work by Roscommon-born painter O’Conor, the still life, No. 5 Still Life Azaleas (1911), which is considered a stunning example of the artist’s use of paint to evoke radiant light and color.

Two paintings by Dublin landscape artist Swanzy, born in 1882, are also included in the sale — Houses on a mountainous landscape (circa 1920) and The Viaduct (1930), which shows the influence of his contemporary, Picasso.

After leaving Dunnes Stores, Dunne devoted much of his considerable energy to acquiring paintings, becoming a familiar figure at auctions in Dublin and London. He also briefly opened his own gallery in Dublin, named after his mother, Norah. It was a short-lived venture before he got into the fitness business by opening gyms.

Gormleys believes the exhibition and sale will break all recent gallery records for a single exhibition and generate millions of euros in sales.

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