Cork artists go under cover for charity sale

Help the Jack and Jill Foundation and pick up a secret masterpiece in Ireland’s biggest online art sale: DAVID FORSYTHE talks to two Cork artists involved in the Incognito event
Cork artists go under cover for charity sale

Deirdre Buckley Cairns, a Cork artist who is participating in the Incognito art sale on April 21 for the Jack and Jill Foundation

SOME of the best known names in arts and entertainment from Ireland and beyond are lending their support to this year’s Incognito art sale in aid of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation.

The sale takes place on Thursday, April 21, from 9.30am, and will feature more than 3,000 art works by over 1,200 artists.

Each postcard-sized artwork is available to purchase for €65 and you can browse the entire collection online.

As well as being able to pick up a genuine work of art for just €65 for a very good cause, the unique attraction of the Incognito sale is that the buyer will not know who the artist is who created their purchase until after the sale is completed.

Now in its sixth year, the sale has proved hugely popular with art fans, who are able to select works from the collection and add them to their wish list of pieces they would like to buy. When the sale goes live, a lottery system allocates the art works at random among buyers who have selected the particular piece on their wish list.

Among the many secret artists who have donated pieces to this year’s sale are the Rolling Stones’ Ronne Wood, singers Andrea Corr, Christy Dignam, Samantha Mumba, Damien Dempsey, Lyra, and Robert Grace.

Long-standing Jack and Jill ambassador, fashion designer Paul Costelloe, is also one of the mystery artists.

Many leading established artists have also contributed pieces, including Adrian+Shane, Ruthie Ashenhurst, Ange Bell, Don Conroy, Peter Curling, Bridget Flinn, Martin Gale, Morgan Gibbs, Maria Levinge, Sheila McCarron, Martin Mooney, Abigail O’Brien, Mick O’Dea, Shane O’Driscoll, Sylvia Parkinson-Brown and Mark Thompson.

We spoke to Cork artists involved in the Incognito Sale.

Well known equine artist Tony O’Connor, whose studio is in Kilmacsimon, near Bandon, is one of the many Cork-based artists who has contributed a piece to this year’s sale.

Artist Tony O’Connor, who is involved in the Incognito Art Sale for the Jack & Jill Foundation this week. He usually specialises in equine art. Picture: Stefan Syrowatka
Artist Tony O’Connor, who is involved in the Incognito Art Sale for the Jack & Jill Foundation this week. He usually specialises in equine art. Picture: Stefan Syrowatka

Originally from Kerry, Tony has been living and working in Cork for the past 25 years after he graduated from the the Crawford College of Art. He specialises in life-size paintings of horses so working with a postcard-sized canvas was something of a challenge for him.

“It’s definitely not the sort of scale I’m used to but I enjoy a challenge and it was fun to do it,” said Tony.

“It’s been a difficult couple of years for everybody and I thought taking part would be a good way to give something back.

“Jack and Jill is a fantastic charity so I really didn’t have to think too much about taking part. I have two children myself and they are both well and healthy and I’m really grateful for that, sometimes you need a hand and sometimes you can lend a hand is the way I see it.”

Growing up in Kerry, where his grand-uncle Mossie was the local blacksmith, Tony has been around horses all his life so it seemed like a natural direction to take in his artistic career. His work forms part of many private and corporate collections worldwide.

Despite being well known for his equine paintings, Tony said that for the Incognito auction, he might have tried something different.

“All I can say is it’s my style, but I can’t say more than that, I might haver thrown in a bit of a wild card!”

Schull-based visual artist Deirdre Buckley Cairns, who has taken part in the art sale for the past few years, says that there is a special spirit about the Incognito event.

“When I was growing in Dublin, I volunteered as a teenager so now it just seems like the natural thing for me to do,” she said.

“We are lucky to have healthy children and it’s something that you can take for granted, it reminds people that they are lucky, I think, and that not everybody is.”

Deirdre studied at the Crawford College of Art and did her BA in Visual Arts on Sherkin Island and has been living in West Cork for the past 11 years.

She works in a number of different mediums, focusing on stained glass, and she also makes award-winning short films. Her video Push won the Best Experimental Short Film Award at the 2019 Global India International Film Festival.

Deirdre said that the secret artist aspect of the sale generates a lot of interest and the sense of expectation makes for a fun event.

“Everything is usually snapped up in the first few minutes so you’ve got to be quick, and for €65 you get an original and it could be by a famous artist or a star you never know.

“I also really like some of the child-like pieces that people create that look as if they could have been made by children themselves,” she said.

“I just love the spirt of the whole thing, the whole idea of it is very appealing.”

Jack and Jill ambassador Paul Costelloe said that Incognito is a celebration of the richness of artistic talent in Ireland.

“I truly think that the art in Incognito, and the level of quality, is incredible. It is a richness way above the price. I don’t think people appreciate how much talent there is in Ireland when it comes to art,” he said.

Artist Robert Ballagh at the launch of the Incognito art sale in aid of the Jack and Jill Foundation
Artist Robert Ballagh at the launch of the Incognito art sale in aid of the Jack and Jill Foundation

In 2022, the Jack and Jill Foundation celebrate their 25th anniversary, making this year’s sale extra special.

The Incognito art sale is about turning art into a currency for care, the foundation provides specialist home nursing care, respite support and end-of-life care for 412 children with highly complex medical and life-limiting conditions in communities across the country.

This includes children under six years of age with brain injury, severe cerebral palsy, as well as those with a genetic diagnosis or a neurodevelopmental condition yet to be diagnosed.

Between now and sale day on April 21, would-be purchasers are urged to register their Incognito account, browse the art and select their favourite pieces at

For more information on the work of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation, visit

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