Michael Flatley, the dancer who has embarked on a new career as a painter, is to offer 25 pictures for sale in London at prices ranging from £50,000 to £250,000 (about €68,000 to €340,000).
After testing the market by selling a few of his paintings through auction houses in Ireland, Flatley is entering the global art market through a high profile selling exhibition. His spokesman said the Firedance exhibition will open at 12 Hay Hill, a Mayfair club and art gallery, on June 25th and run until the end of July. The spokesman said the “timing is deliberate to coincide with Masterpiece [a major international annual art and antiques fair in London] where many international art collectors will visit”.
Audacious move Flatley’s sale is an audacious move. Exhibitions of this type and price range in London are normally associated with well established artists, and although he is well known as a dancer, he is a virtual newcomer in the art world. The exhibition is being curated by Mollie DentBrocklehurst, one of the most influential figures in London’s art market. She previously worked for Sotheby’s and has advised major international art collectors, including Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. She is a director of Pace, a leading international contemporary art gallery with venues in London, New York and Beijing, that handles art by artists including David Hockney, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso.
Flatley creates his paintings by dancing on canvases, which are actually strips of marley – a type of vinyl floor covering used by tap dancers, at studios in both his Co Cork mansion, Castlehyde, and at his house in Barbados. The catalogue for Firedance says that “he paints for hours on end, for days at a time, until exhaustion” and “the speed and precision that his footwork and body movements can achieve make this innovative method of painting distinctive and the resulting image is a visceral imprint direct from the inner mind”.
Among the paintings in the exhibition are Firedance and Elvis Presley, each measuring 3ft by 3ft and priced at £100,000 (€136,000). The highest priced piece, a huge 12ft by 5ft painting titled The Slow March of Death – part of a series inspired by the Famine – is priced at £250,000. These prices are comparable to those routinely paid for the most sought after Irish artists such as Jack B Yeats, Paul Henry and Sir John Lavery.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Flatley said he was “not expecting massive success” but just wanted the public to see his art and “let the chips fall where they may”.
His art first came to light in 2011 when he donated a painting titled I to an auction organised by Sheppard’s to raise funds for Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral. It sold for €5,600. In 2013, he presented The Walking Dead, an abstract depiction of victims of the Famine, to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who accepted it on behalf of the State. Location unknown The painting was displayed in the Taoiseach’s office and was seen by visiting dignitaries including IMF chief Christine Lagarde, but its current location is unknown. In April this year, his painting titled The Power was sold at Morgan O’Driscoll Auctioneers art auction in the RDS in Dublin to an “international buyer” for €77,500, one of the highest prices paid for a painting in Ireland so far this year.
IRISH TIMES 09.06.2015