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Irish auctioneers have told ATG that online bidding is coming to the fore as the Republic of Ireland imposes strict rules on social gatherings to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

However Dublin auctioneer Adam’s has postponed "all auction activity", including its Important Irish Art sale on March 25.

Fellow Dublin auctioneer DeVeres has announced that all of its sales are postponed "until things return to normal".

The Irish government has advised that indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people should be cancelled in response to the deadly virus outbreak.

'Proceeding with auctions'

Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers of Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny said it planned to proceed with its auction calendar.

"Bidding these days is all online and on the telephone," said Fonsie Mealy. "We never have more than 100 people viewing at one time and to get 75 at an auction is incredible nowadays."

Adam's said its decision followed government advice on COVID-19 and means delaying the firm's Works on Paper sale on April 8 and a Mid Century Modern auction on April 28.

Unlike in the UK, schools and colleges in the Irish Republic were last week ordered to close until the end of the month and many people are now working from home.

With the country expecting a surge of Covid-19 cases in the next 10 days, pubs and restaurants have been requested to shut until March 29.

'Internet only'

Whyte’s of Dublin has sales scheduled for May 9 (The Eclectic Collector) and May 25 (Important Irish Art).

Staff at the central-Dublin based auctioneer are working from home in anticipation of a "total lock-down order" by the Irish government, Ian Whyte told ATG.

However, Whyte said that if Irish government "regulations and/or health risks demand, we will postpone any future sales or, where practicable, make them internet-only”.

Staff at DeVeres are also working from home "due to recommended best practice", the auctioneer announced on its website and all sales postponed "until things return to normal". The firm's Irish Art Auction sale on April 7 has been delayed, but with the catalogue remaining online.

"Until we feel people are happy to come out and view, we won't commit to a sale date," John deVere White told ATG. "Sellers would rather we wait until market conditions improve before proceeding."

Sheppard's of Durrow, Co Laois, is planning to hold its next sale, The O'Mahony Collection, on March 24 with online, commission and telephone bidding, but with no in-room bidding allowed.

Earlier this week, south County Dublin auctioneer Mullen’s proceeded with its Interiors Auction, hosted on the-saleroom.com.

Fears of consignment freeze

Mealy added that the firm wanted to avoid a "panicky" decision to cancel sales at this time, voicing fears of a freeze in consignments. "We must have some sense of order and continuity, and try and avoid a glut of sales in June or September."

The firm was "working hard" for its next sale, the Chatsworth Fine Art Sale on April 21-22, in Castlecomer, "but with a close eye on government advice".

There are bidders who "may be in self-isolation but who are quite healthy – online bidding will keep them from going stir-crazy," Mealy said.