Ben Dunne sells art collection worth 10 million euros

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

In it the Belfast-born Lavery, who was in Ireland when Collins was killed at Béal na Bláth, Co Cork, held six days later from the vantage point of the organ balcony in the pro-Cathedral. This work, painted during the service, is widely considered to be an authentic snapshot of Collins’ funeral.

The Dunne Collection and sale through Gormleys Fine Art auction house includes Jack B. Yeats’ singing ‘My Dark Rosaleen’, Croke parkwhich was also painted during the Irish Revolutionary period and commemorates the Bloody Sunday massacre at the GAA grounds in Dublin in November 1920.

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

“We are in a phase of downsizing and we don’t have the space to display the entire collection,” said former supermarket magnate Dunne, 73.
who now runs a chain of gyms in Dublin, Meath and Laois. “That’s why we’re excited to bring some of it to the exhibition and for sale.”

Known as the Ben and Mary Dunne Collection and 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 €10 million.

Dunne was the central figure who ushered in the tribunals era in the 1990s and 2000s, after a bitter family feud with his sister, Margaret Heffernan, led straight to the McCracken Tribunal and the subsequent disgrace of Charles Haughey, Michael Lowry and other major business figures.

In November 1994, Dunne, who had succeeded his father Ben Sr. as chairman of Ireland’s largest retail chain Dunnes Stores, was forced out of the business with a £125 million payment to avoid a legal battle between him and his surviving siblings Frank and Margaret and Teresa.

Weeks later, he celebrated his newfound independence by buying his favorite painting, Lavery’s Sketch for Pro-Cathedral, Dublin 1922, by Alan Hobart, a London dealer, for what was then described as “a hefty six figure sum”. Hobart became the Dunnes’ art advisor, and a few months later they bought it Sings “The Dark Rosaleen”, Croke Park at Sotheby’s of London for £450,000.

Both paintings have since hung in pride of place in the family home in Castleknock, Winterwood. Dunne is said to have joked to friends: “You [his family] They can keep me out of the stores, but they can’t keep me out of the paint shops,” says Sam Smyth’s book. Thank you a million big fella.

An exhibition and sale of the Dunne collection will take place at Gormley Fine Art in Dublin from 8th to 22nd September 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 make it up and the conversation between them become more than the sum of their parts,” art expert Mark Adams wrote in his foreword to the catalogue.

“By applying their own brilliant eye to a painting and seeking the masterful advice of the late Alan Hobart, Ben and Mary Dunne have assembled a collection that captures Ireland in all its infinite facets.”

There are two other paintings by Lavery that have been described as “extraordinary examples of his work” and will be on display in the exhibition. in the The Drawing Room, Falconwood (1917), the artist was inspired by the elegant, sunlit features of his friends’ Palladian-style Victorian villa in Blackheath, London. The third Lavery work for sale, La Pecheuse, Grez sur Loing (1884) shows a woman fishing by a river in a French woodland.

The sale also includes a piece by Roscommon-born painter O’Conor, the Still Life, No. 5 Nature Morte Azaleas (1911), which is considered a stunning example of the artist’s use of color to evoke radiant light and color.

Two paintings by Dublin landscape artist Swanzy, born 1882, are also included in the auction — Houses in a mountainous landscape (around 1920) and The viaduct (1930), showing the influence of her contemporary Picasso.

After leaving Dunne’s Stores, Dunne devoted much of his considerable energies to acquiring paintings and became a familiar figure at Dublin and London auctions. He also briefly opened his own gallery in Dublin, named after his mother Norah. It was a short-lived venture before breaking into the fitness business with the opening of gyms.

Gormleys believes the exhibition and sale will break all previous gallery records for a single exhibition and generate millions in sales. Ben Dunne sells art collection worth 10 million euros

Fry Electronics Team

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