Lest we forget how NAMA gets into every nook and cranny of Irish life, we learn from the Irish Times today that NAMA is to oversee the sale of 10 paintings by one of its developers. The developer, David Arnold has reportedly engaged British auction house Bonham’s to sell 10 paintings by Irish artists – Bonhams is said to be exhibiting the paintings in Ireland prior to the auction, a date for which has not been given. The paintings are expected to have guide prices of €250-500,000 in total. David Arnold is the developer who fronted D2 Private with Deirdre Foley. D2 Private is presently selling the Woolgate Exchange in the City of London with a price tag in the region of €300m, though it is believed the loans for the building from Anglo have not been moved to NAMA. D2 sold 23 Savile Row in London’s West End in August 2012 for GBP 200m (€275m) and it is unclear if this was a NAMA-related sale. We do know that One Warrington Place in Dublin which sold earlier this year for €26-27m with NAMA staple finance was definitely a NAMA property.
NAMA also has control over solicitor and developer – and UK resident – Noel Smyth’s art collection, which has been dismissed by some as a “load of tat”. NAMA took possession of the 400-piece collection late last year as Noel seemingly struggled to repay his debt to the Agency.
At least with the David Arnold paintings, NAMA is not giving this art away with insensitive magnanimity as it did with a donation of a John Lavery painting to the National Gallery of Ireland in May 2011 when the Agency memorably said it was “a goodwill gesture to the National Gallery and to the Irish people to offer the National Gallery one piece of art from the collection for free given the fact that they advised it was of importance to the heritage of Ireland” Mind you, NAMA wasn’t the only state agency to give away (our) art free-of-charge, AIB and IBRC (formerly Anglo and INBS) have both donated art to the State. The Lavery painting was part of Derek Quinlan’s art collection, much of which was sold by NAMA at Christie’s in New York and London late last year.
There were ructions when NAMA appointed Christie’s to deal with the Derek Quinlan collection, with Irish fine art auctioneers particularly vocal about paintings by Irish artists being auctioned by foreign auction companies. In the case of the David Arnold paintings, NAMA has neatly side-stepped any controversy by saying that it was David Arnold himself who chose the auctioneer and NAMA’s principal concern was that the paintings be sold in a transparent manner.
A search of the Bonham’s website indicates that the David Arnold paintings are not yet included in a scheduled auction.