The National Gallery ended up paying a cool €1.5 million for a painting by Jack B. Yeats despite reservations from some of its own board members about the exorbitant price.
The price was more than 75% above the highest amount the gallery had paid for a new painting in well over a decade.
In meetings, the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI) board was told the painting ‘Bachelor’s Walk, In Memory’ was being offered by its owners at a negotiable price of GB£1.7 million but that Yeats’ paintings often exceeded their sale price.
One board member Professor Owen Lewis said he was supportive of the purchase but had “serious reservations” about the asking price given the extent of the gallery’s existing Yeats Collection of 37 works.
Others said they also supported the purchase amid fears of controversy if the artwork left the country but said how the NGI would fund it needed to be “fully investigated”.
The picture had been on long-term loan to the National Gallery since 2009 with then director Sean Rainbird saying it and another picture Grief were the “strongest painting[s]” in their collection of Yeats’ work.
The National Gallery had originally refused access to most of the information on the purchase of the painting following a request made under Freedom of Information laws.
However, the case was appealed to the Information Commissioner, who ruled most of the information could be released and was not commercially sensitive given the National Gallery now owned the painting.
The Information Commissioner ruled that the records “relate to extremely specific negotiating positions that are relevant only to the particular transaction”.
You can read that decision here.