A section of the gallery with the Brian McCarthy paintings at the Mayo Antiques and Fine Art centre in Castlebar.

Exhibition by artist Brian McCarthy opens in Castlebar

By Tom Gillespie

AN exhibition of paintings by one of Ireland’s greatest artists has just opened at Mayo Antiques & Fine Art at the Castle Street car park in Castlebar.

The gallery and showrooms, over two floors, was opened just before Christmas by business partners Les O’Neill and Sean McNeela and they specialise in antiques and contemporary fine art.

Les O’Neill is a Dublin-born, Manchester-based businessman who runs bars and clubs in Manchester City centre.

As a result of the lockdown last year, the UK government had forced the closure of his businesses because of Covid.

Newport native Sean McNeela, who resides at Breaffy, Castlebar, is a block layer by trade and now specialises in antique restoration.

Les told me: “We just had two weeks of trading prior to Christmas and then the Covid restrictions came into being. Sean and I got our heads together to utilise the next three or four months by putting some nice finishing touches to the gallery prior to reopening.

“Sean came up with the idea of actually doubling the size of the gallery, which we have done to accommodate a show by one of Ireland’s greatest artists, Brian McCarthy.

“He operates from studios in Clontarf for the past 30 years. He is just an incredibly talented artist. He has had two solo shows over the last 20 years and both have been sell-outs.

“This will be his third solo show, which we will be hosting in Castlebar. This is a real coup for Co. Mayo and we are absolutely thrilled to host it.”

Sean added: “It is 10 years since Brian had his last show, which was called ‘Boom Town’, and this body of work of about 20 paintings, which we will be displaying, he has been working on for the past six or seven years.”

Les continued: “All the paintings in Brian’s ‘Summer Show’, which will run until the end of July, are for sale with prices starting at €2,500 and going up to €11,000. It will give everyone an opportunity throughout Ireland to visit the show.

“His works are in great demand. He is in a lot of private national and international collections. We have no doubt but the show will be a huge success.

“His portrait of RTÉ broadcaster Joe Duffy was short-listed for the Zurich Portrait Prize in 2019. It was a show organised by the National Gallery of Ireland.”

Brian McCarthy’s show was launched last Monday, when galleries were again permitted to open, and next Monday (May 17) the doors will open to their antiques showrooms.

Sean continued: “Our gallery is a bit different than your normal run of the mill galleries. There are a lot of beautiful antiques and Persian rugs in the gallery which are all for sale.”

Les said right now they probably have the largest collection of Persian rugs on the west coast of Ireland, adding: “We have over 100 Persian rugs, a lot of them are antiques. One in particular, the Isfaham Persian rug, a highly prized rug, is very rare.

“All the rugs are works of art. They are all hand woven. The Isfaham rug would have taken tribal villagers in Persia literally months to produce.

“We have been doing really good with the Persian rugs during lockdown. We have been selling a lot online. That is what has kept us going.

“We have all the antiques, Persian rugs and Brian McCarthy’s paintings available online.”

Sean added: “We will be doing an autumn show with another Irish artist yet to be announced. College graduates are also welcome to display their bodies of art. We are all for giving young artists a break and an opportunity to get their art seen.

“That includes the colleges in Ireland, the UK and the USA. The graduates are always looking for a gallery to show their work and we are happy to do that.

“We want to be one of the best galleries in Ireland where people can come and view high end art, from the student to the likes of Brian McCarthy. We like to give everyone a chance. If they have work to show, we will show it.

“We also have a large body of contemporary art by international artists that will be on display through the showrooms.”

Brian McCarthy works exclusively in oils, and vibrant colours, realism, and trompe l’oeil are central to his work.

Brian’s career began in 1981 when a self-portrait sold at the Douglas Hyde Gallery’s ‘Living Art Exhibition’. Since then, he has undertaken numerous commissions.

The opening hours at Mayo Antiques & Fine Art are from 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m., and closed on Monday. The gallery can be contacted on (094) 9021777 or info@mayoantiques.com.