This is a guide for visitors to Dublin who are interested in the visual arts. I have been looking at Dublin’s art galleries for the last few days while my wife attends a conference.
The galleries that I have visited are (in the order that I would recommend visiting): National Gallery of Ireland, Hugh Lane (Dublin City Gallery), RHA Gallery, Douglas Hyde Gallery, the Gallery of Photography, National Photographic Archive, and finally the Irish Museum of Modern Art. My recommendations are based both on the quality of the gallery, its exhibits and convince of the location. There are many commercial galleries around Dawson and Killdare streets but none of them were really worth visiting unless you like conservative, contemporary art designed to specifically to sell. I did see the outside of the Temple Bar Gallery and National College of Art & Design Gallery but both were closed so I couldn’t form an opinion or recommend them to others.
The National Gallery of Ireland is a very large gallery and will take most of a day to see all of it. It also has a very confusing layout, rather like the streets of Dublin. It has European paintings from the 16th to 20th century, concentrating on the 17th and 18th centuries. The famous Caravaggio was on loan to another gallery when I visited but there are plenty of other excellent paintings in the collection. The collection does not have many modern artists and only two abstract, non-figurative paintings (both by Mainie Jellett who exhibited the first abstract painting in Ireland in 1923).
Along with many French, Italian, and Spanish paintings there are Irish paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland, although not as much as you might expect. There is a gallery of paintings by Jack B. Yeats (father of the poet W.B. Yeats) whose later expressive figurative paintings done mostly with a palette knife are rather unique in style. There is also a gallery of Irish portraits; including more paintings by Jack B. Yeats.
I have already written about the Hugh Lane (Dublin City Gallery) in my entry about Francis Bacon’s Studio. It is worth a visit if you like modern and contemporary art.
I was glad that I did visit the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy) Gallery even though it was once a conservative institution because this is where I saw the best contemporary Irish art. It has two floors with large modern gallery spaces. When I visited it had its 180th Annual Exhibition and was exhibiting hundreds of paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture by local artists. Some of the work was political art with a critical comment on current economics or anti-war, some of the work referred to Irish literature but I only saw two paintings with a religious theme.
The Douglas Hyde Gallery at Trinity College has temporary contemporary art exhibitions. When I visited they were exhibiting works by the American photographer, Stephen Shore and the American minimalist, Agnes Martin.
The Gallery of Photography and the National Photographic Archive are both small and conveniently located opposite each other at Meeting House Square in the Temple Bar area. The Irish Film Institute is also at Meeting House Square and the Temple Bar area is Dublin’s arts area.
Finally there is the Irish Museum of Modern Art is only for people who like a lot of walking. There wasn’t much to see when I visited; half of it is devoted to bookshop, coffee shop, reception, lecture rooms, toilets etc. and half of the galleries were closed for installation. The building a former military hospital in Kilmainham is not really a suitable building for a gallery. It will make a good sculpture garden when there is more on exhibition. It has the feel of a government make work program given the number of gallery attendants especially compared to the National Gallery.