Sotheby’s find a warm welcome in Wales with record bid and active museum interest
UK: THE strong, and occasionally extraordinary, demand for Celtic art, both Scottish and Irish, has been a feature of the art market for years and has warranted specialist picture sales devoted to those country’s painters.
Britain’s third Celtic nation, Wales, has, of course, produced its share of artists but until recently these were not seen as any sort of entity, sharing the saleroom limelight with other British artists at London sales. This may be changing with the recent format at Sotheby’s (15 per cent buyer’s premium) whereby the auctioneers hold an annual sale at Margham Park in Mid Glamorgan. The success of the antiques sold at the March 23 sale was reported earlier in the Antiques Trade Gazette (No. 1484 - 28 April 2001) but the interest for art dealers and collectors was the interest from within and outside Wales – and subsequent strong prices – in pictures by native artists. It seems the market for Welsh pictures is becoming increasingly strong.
Born in Llangefni on Anglesey in 1918, Sir Kyffin Williams has a reputation as one of Wales’s most celebrated artists with works in the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Wales and the National Library of Wales.
At the Margam Park sale an oil on canvas Farmer in the Snow was offered together with 13 other canvases by Williams.
At 193/4 by 191/2in (50 x 49.5cm), the canvas, depicting a farmer trudging after his dog down a steep hill, was characteristic of Williams mostly bleak landscapes where the paint has been thickly applied with a palette knife.
Entered into the sale from the Howard Roberts Gallery in Cardiff, the picture was keenly contested by both the trade and private collectors with an anonymous London buyer taking it at £18,000 – a new auction record for the artist.
A Welsh Cottage, a typical rural Celtic vision of a white-washed cottage nestled in fields flanked by dry stone walls and set against a slate grey sky proved a further success for Williams.
Again exhibiting thick layers of muted coloured paint, the oil on canvas 193/4 by 2ft 21/2in (50 x 67.5cm) left behind its £5000-7000 estimate to bring £11,000 from a London private.
Expert-in-charge Gareth Williams told of Sotheby’s aim to establish “a tradition of offering contemporary Welsh painters” and one such artist Valerie Ganz (b.1936) saw success at Margham Park with two of her works being bought by the National Museum of Wales.
British Steel, Port Talbot, a watercolour and bodycolour painted in 1995 of an industrial landscape sold at £2200.
Pit Closures, an image of numerous miners heads overprinted with words like 'Jobs Losses' and 'Imported Coal' and surrounded by an extensively inscribed mount detailing pit closures round the country sold £2800.
Both are intended to be hung in a new Industrial and Maritime Museum planned for Ganz’s native Swansea.
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