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RTÉ sells off Louis le Brocquy painting for €102,000

The national broadcaster is dealing with a serious financial crisis.

Louis le Brocquy.
Louis le Brocquy.

JUST ONE OF three paintings put up for auction by RTÉ at Sotheby’s in London managed to sell.

The only lot to sell was lot 73, Louis le Brocquy’s Táin. This was sold for €102,253, after bidding on the phones and the internet – but it was a room bidder who secured the painting. 

It had a bid of €58,390 prior to the auction and was valued at between €81,746 and €116,780. However, the €102,253 reached will be split 50/50 between RTÉ as the Arts Council, as the council financed half of the purchase. This means RTÉ will receive around €50,000.

The national broadcaster will also have to pay a private vendor’s commission to Sotheby’s.

Another Louis Le Brocquy, The Massing of the Armies, had a bid of €99,263 prior to the auction and was valued at between €140,000 and €210,000 – but did not sell as it reached only €110,000 in the room, some €30,000 lower than its starting estimate.

The two Le Brocquys were commissioned by RTÉ in 1966 and 2000.

Lot 86, by the late award-winning Tony O’Malley, Inscape Mozaga, had a prior bid of €12,845 and was valued at €17,517 to €29,195, but did not sell as it reached only €16,349.

Another painting, George Campbell’s Symphony Orchestra, was also listed with an estimated price of between €26,950 and €41,000. The lot was withdrawn prior to the sale and it has been sold privately.

If all of the paintings had sold, including Symphony Orchestra,  for the higher price they would have raised €691,300.

A spokesperson for Sotheby’s said: “Just one of the paintings sold and the commission to be paid to us by RTÉ is agreed privately and is on a sliding scale. The amount paid on commission is on a case by case basis.

“I can confirm that the George Campbell painting was sold privately prior to the auction but cannot say how much it was sold for.”

He said they would not be commenting on the next move by RTÉ on when and if the paintings which did not sell would go back on the public market or were to be sold privately.

RTÉ’s takings from the sales will be further reduced because it has to split the proceeds from the sale of Táin and Abstract Painting with the Arts Council because it helped to fund the original purchases. 

RTÉ financial situation has been under considerably pressure in recent years, recording losses of €20 million in 2016 and €13 million in 2018. 

In a statement, the national broadcaster said all proceeds raised from the sale of the art works will be reinvested in the organisation.

“The five art works put up for action by RTÉ are part of a wider collection which dates back over 50 years. While the proceeds raised in the auction will be reinvested in the organisation, as previously stated, RTÉ is well aware that this sale will not solve our financial issues. In this regard, RTÉ recently published a plan which we are confident can address many of the challenges we face and bring Ireland’s national public media to stability.”

RTÉ said it has no further comment while the auction is ongoing.

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Sarah Slater

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