By Sarah Slater
The art collection of the acclaimed late playwright Brian Friel which went under the hammer in aid of a homeless charity last night raised almost €200,000.
His wife Anne, donated the sale proceeds of their complete collection of 23 works from well-known Irish artists to the Peter McVerry Trust in aid of the homeless.
The Tony award nominee dramatist, short story writer and playwright died aged 86 on October 2, 2015, in Greencastle, Co Donegal following a long illness.
Tyrone-born Friel works include Dancing at Lughnasa, Philadelphia Here I Come! and he was a co-founder of the Field Day Theatre Company.
The paintings were sold by Adam’s auction house on St Stephen’s Green Dublin.
At the start of the auction, an Adam’s spokesperson said: “The first 23 lots of auction are part of a special evening due to the remarkable generosity of the late Brian Friel and his wife Anne to the worthy cause of the Peter McVerry Trust.”
The auction included works by renowned artists Tony O’Malley, Basil Blackshaw, Norah McGuinness, Sean McSweeney, Stephen McKenna, Patrick Hennessy, Patrick Scott and Felim Egan. Revenue from the sale made €193,000, some €23,000 more than the estimate of €170,000.
Lot 19, a painting titled, Evening Flight by Norah McGuinness made the top price of the collection at €22,000.
Basil Blackshaw's painting
There was frantic bidding for the ever popular work of the late artist Basil Blackshaw of a Lurcher, which made €17,000, which was €10,000 more than its estimate.
All bar one of the lots were sold, with the majority making more than their reserve value.
Pat Hume, wife of former politician and founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, (SDLP) and joint Nobel Peace Prize winner John and longtime friend of the Friels, provided a footnote in the auction catalogue acknowledging their generosity over the years.
She said: ”It was with no great surprise that I learned that the Anne and Brian Friel collection of paintings was being donated to the Peter McVerry Trust.
“I have known Brian and Anne for most of my life and I was acutely aware of their deep interest in social justice. Brian’s father, a schoolteacher here in Derry, was a councillor in the old Derry Corporation.
“I remember as a young girl reading his passionate words on the deplorable gerrymandering (when a political group tries to change a voting district to create a result that helps them or hurts the group who is against them) and the appalling homelessness problems of that time.
“No doubt this filtered through to the young Brian, who became an active member of the first Derry committee to help the travelling community in the 1960s.
Norah McGuinness' painting.
“The conditions of great deprivation suffered, and the detrimental effects that homelessness had on people’s mental and physical health were highly evident then, as they are now.”
Mrs Hume added: "The Peter McVerry Trust has been at the forefront of working to help homeless people for many years, and it is a testament to Anne’s wonderful generosity that she is donating the art collection built up by herself and Brian over a lifetime to such a pressing cause.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for people to both acquire a piece of art and to contribute to the solution of one of our society’s most pressing problems. I wish the sale well.”
The sale garnered a lot of interest from buyers at home and internationally.
Commenting on the sale, Fr McVerry has said: “We very much appreciate Anne’s very generous support and kindness in donating this collection of paintings.”
“Proceeds from the sale of the art will greatly help us to provide our services to the growing numbers of people experiencing homelessness."