Irish Art Expert Penny Day’s Perfect Weekend in London

Irish art expert PENNY DAY combines travel, skating, film and supporting Arsenal on an IDEAL WEEKEND


The nature of my work, as an art consultant at Bonhams, means the majority of my time is spent either out and about around Ireland and the UK or in the New Bond Street offices, but we go wherever the client is. So if I get a call today about a unique 1930s Barbara Hepworth carving in Sydney, for example, I could be on a plane to Australia tomorrow. I’ve travelled all over the world to see people and pictures.

My interest in art developed at a young age. I come from a family of creatives; as a child in the 1980s my parents took me to the Tate Gallery while we were visiting family in England. I remember seeing Henri Matisse’s The Snail and being mesmerised. We also had a card game which was basically Happy Families but with artists, and I spent years trying to “collect” all the Hockneys and Bacons. Thirty years on and I find myself face to face with real Hockneys and world-class collections.

Last year I was privileged to offer The CS Reddihough Collection, the largest and most comprehensive group of single-owner works by Ben Nicholson ever to appear at auction. Within the collection was a very special Henry Moore plaster, which went on to make a breathtaking £1,818,500stg. The moment the hammer went down and the saleroom erupted in applause is a memory I will treasure.

I live in De Beauvoir Town, N1, which is a fantastic little pocket of inner London right next to the social hubs of Shoreditch, Dalston, Angel and Hoxton but it still manages to feel very village-y and peaceful. There’s a great, close-knit local community, which I think is a rare find in London.

Most of the walls in my apartment are actually bare which people always find odd, given the nature of my work. Being around such outstanding paintings and sculpture every day has perhaps made me a little too discerning when it comes to my own home, though I do have a piece by British pop artist Clive Barker of which I am very fond.


The weekend tends to kick off with a Negroni or Aperol Spritz at my local pizza place, Sweet Thursday, with my boyfriend Jon. We’ve developed a bit of a habit of going there for a chilled-out dinner and wind down on Friday evenings. During the week I battle rush hour in central London twice a day so at the weekends I try and avoid the Tube by either staying close to home or getting out of town completely.

Saturday morning starts with cuddling Fergus, our Bengal cat, and then breakfast in bed; I’m not a morning person. I quite like not making any plans and just seeing what I feel like. Jon recently asked me if I fancied having dinner in France; I did, so we hopped in the car and later were enjoying moules frites!

I’ve always had the travel bug and this has carried through to my adult life. I’ve visited over 35 countries with favourites including India, Nepal, Guatemala and Borneo. Most recently I fulfilled a lifelong dream of going to Antarctica – my seventh and final continent. Next on my list is a long weekend in Iceland and a longer road trip through the American Deep South.


I left Ireland after I graduated from Trinity in 2004 but never thought I would still be in London 13 years later, so it’s important for me to get home often. It tends to be every six weeks or so, and I split my time between Dublin, Portlaoise and Dunmore East. My idea of a perfect Saturday lunch would probably be a table laden with Italian antipasti in Dublin in my aunt’s kitchen surrounded by all the family and followed by a lazy afternoon next to the fire with a good book. If we’re in London, Saturday night involves catching up with friends or going to a gig. The most recent show I went to was Guns N’ Roses in Paris, which was mind-blowing.

London has fantastic markets and there’s nothing better than a chilled Sunday morning rummaging around Spitalfields, Brick Lane or Columbia Road, picking up fresh flowers and stopping for interesting street food. I’d love to wax lyrical about my fabulous vintage wardrobe, but when it comes to my signature style I am a total sneaker freak and collect trainers. Invariably I’ll wear a pair of Vans or DCs with jeans and a plain tee. Jon and I like to skateboard so we might take our long boards and head over to Victoria Park. Sometimes I’ll take my camera and snap away too as I’m a keen photographer.


There’s a fish restaurant called Riddle and Finns in the Lanes in Brighton that I really love, so for a proper treat we might go there for a Sunday lunch of lobster, chips and champagne by the seaside. An Arsenal win would round off the perfect weekend, although that seems unlikely at the moment. They’re my local club and, as a member, I try to get to four or five games a season. In any case, I always settle in for Match of the Day with a little Jameson.

It’s hard to prepare for the week ahead, when in my line of work, I quite often don’t know what it will entail. I love Bonhams as much today as eleven years ago when I joined. The company has a real family feel to it and I count the three guys in my team among my best friends. I’ll check my diary and see if I have any forthcoming private views or evening events to attend, but aside from that, Sunday night means movie night for me. If it’s not an old-school film at home, we go down the road to see something at The Barbican.

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