A new exhibition from the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Collection, presenting some 57 works by Irish artists from the pivotal decade of the 1970s, opens to the public at IMMA on Wednesday 10 May 2006. Irish Art of the Seventies includes 35 recently-acquired works from the PJ Carroll Collection, one of the formative collections in the development of the visual arts in Ireland in the past 50 years. Important historic works by artists such as Robert Ballagh, Michael Coleman, Tony O’Malley, Patrick Scott, Maria Simonds-Gooding and Michael Warren are included, alongside pieces by Colin Middleton, TP Flanagan and others, already well-known as part of the Museum’s Collection. The exhibition will be officially opened by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, John O’Donoghue, TD, at 6.30pm on Tuesday 9 May.
Long regarded as a pre-eminent collection of Irish art of the 1960s and ‘70s, the PJ Carroll Collection played a crucial role in the development of modern Irish art. It acted as both a catalyst and a source of support for the work of many leading artists at a time when general interest in the visual arts was still quite limited. Carrolls’ interest in visual aesthetics was signalled from the very start by their commissioning a landmark head office in Dundalk, designed by the renowned Irish architect Ronnie Tallon. A sculpture by the Czechoslovak-born artist Gerda Frömel, commissioned as part of the new building, marked the start of 16 years of collecting on a scale then unprecedented in this country.
Beginning in 1964, the company also inaugurated an annual award at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art. Their involvement completely revitalised the exhibition and brought many distinguished international judges, such as Sir Roland Penrose and David Sylvester, into contact with the work of Irish artists. They also bought a number of the award-winning works, including Habitation, 1970, by Maria Simonds-Gooding, which, like the 1979 prize winner, Through Black by Michael Coleman, is included in the exhibition. Three sculptures by Gerda Frömel echo her piece specially created for Carrolls’ headquarters building.
Carrolls were also involved in sponsoring the ground-breaking Rosc exhibitions of the 1960s and ‘70s, and two works by Patrick Scott – Large Rosc Symbol, 1971, and Small Rosc Symbol, 1967 – used as symbols for the exhibitions are being shown. To celebrate the history of Dundalk and the Cooley Peninsula, the company also commissioned Louis le Brocquy to create some of his earliest tapestries based on the Táin legend and these are represented in the show by the powerful The Hosting of the Táin, 1969.
Fifty-two works from the PJ Carroll Collection were acquired by IMMA under a Section 1003 gift to the State in 2005. Many of these works had already formed part of a substantial loan to the Museum in the 1990s. Commenting on the acquisition, IMMA Director Enrique Juncosa said, “The acquisition of this large body of work from the PJ Carroll Collection is of great importance to the Museum. It takes our holding of works by Irish artists from the 1970s to a completely new level and constitutes a significant advance in our aim of bringing together a truly representative collection of the best Irish art of the post-War era”.
Carrolls were not, of course, the sole patrons of contemporary art in the 1970s and works from other major collections, which form part of IMMA’s Collection, will also feature in the show. These will include paintings by Colin Middleton, Theo McNab, Patrick Ireland, William Scott and Deborah Brown from IMMA’s founding donation from the Gordon Lambert Trust. All of these artists showed at the innovative Hendriks Gallery, and several of them were also recipients of PJ Carroll awards.
Irish Art of the Seventies offers a fascinating insight into how the face of Irish art was revolutionised during that decade by a combination of factors. The Rosc exhibitions of the 1960s and ‘70s created a debate on the nature of art and also provided an international context, which the artists in this exhibition were quick to respond to. But another powerful stimulus came from a small group of far-seeing collectors and businessmen, including Donal Carroll, of PJ Carroll and Co, Gordon Lambert and architects Scott Tallon Walker.
Irish Art of the Seventies is curated by Catherine Marshall, Senior Curator: Head of Collections at IMMA. The exhibition will also be shown at the Crawford Gallery in Cork in 2007.
An exhibition guide accompanies the exhibition.
Irish Art of the Seventies continues until 10 December 2006. Admission is free
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am - 5.30pm except Wednesday 10.30am – 5.30pm Sundays and Bank Holidays 12 noon - 5.30pm Closed Monday
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