Oliver Sears: In Residence

The Irish art gallery takes up residence in Fitzrovia

As the international art crowd swarms to the multiheaded visual beast that is Frieze, there is one gallerist eschewing the London fair for something of a very different scale and timbre. Dublin-based Oliver Sears, whose eponymous gallery opened in the depths of the Irish recession in 2010, has an impressive track record of exhibitions featuring Irish and non-Irish artists, both established and emerging. How To Spend It readers will be very familiar with the dazzling, sculptural creations of furniture designer Joseph Walsh, who the gallery has represented for many years, and its other luminaries include Colin Davidson, president of the Royal Ulster Academy of Art, and leading ceramicist Sara Flynn.

For the month of October, Sears is taking over a townhouse in London’s Fitzrovia with a selling exhibition fittingly entitled In Residence. The show has been curated by respected art consultant Brian Kennedy, who has brought together a stimulating selection representing five different genres: painting, photography, sculpture, design and applied arts. As well as pieces by Walsh (second picture), Davidson (third picture) and Flynn, the exhibition includes significant works by renowned painter Hughie O’Donoghue (such as Yellow Man III), equestrian artist Laurence Riddell, photographer Paul Gaffney, sculptor John Kelly and applied artist Sasha Sykes. Twenty-nine artists are represented (the majority of them living) in total, many works date from this year, and most are for sale from £5,000-£80,000 – stretching to £280,000 for Beach Parasols, Concarneau by William John Leech and the Phoenix table by Nest Design at £12,000. My personal favourite is the serene moonscape Incoming Tide, Achill by Paul Henry (1911-1913, first picture) but, as it carries a price tag of £100,000, it probably won’t be coming home with me.

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While diverse in medium, period, subject and aesthetic, every piece holds its own: “In Residence is unashamedly narrative-based, rather than heavily conceptual, with a lot of landscape and portraiture – even reflected in the applied art,” says Kennedy.

But there is one masterpiece on view that is bound to cause a quiver of excitement even among the most cynical of artistic crowds: a previously publicly unseen work by Lucian Freud – a version of Donegal Man (2008) that, until recently, few people knew existed. While that alone may have some heading with haste towards Fitzroy Square, this promises to be a refreshing, beautifully conceived pop-up that shows art of a domestic scale in the most perfect of private settings. Sears has always enjoyed going his own way, and In Residence perfectly encapsulates his passion for art and applied art – and his belief that they should be embraced as equals.

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And, he hopes, visitors will find a greater appreciation for Irish contemporary art: “Whereas Irish poets, playwrights, novelists, actors and musicians have flourished in London, Irish artists are under-represented and little recognised, except for a notable few. As a Londoner who has spent 30 years in Ireland, it feels right to host this event in a home from home.”

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