The 1998 Nissan Art Project, one of the largest visual arts sponsorships in Ireland, has been awarded to the Irish sculptor Dorothy Cross. The project involves the creation of a ‘ghost ship’ from a decommissioned lightship, which will be anchored in Scotsmans Bay, off the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Ghost Ship was selected from a wide variety of proposals from eight countries for the £40,000 award. The decision of the international jury was announced today (Tuesday 26 May) at the Irish Museum of Modern Art by Mr Gerard O’Toole, Executive Chairman of Nissan Ireland, sponsors of the project.
The project is a personal homage by Dorothy Cross to the many lightships which once marked dangerous reefs around the Irish coast, but have now all but disappeared. The Ghost Ship will be covered in luminous paint and, at nightfall, illuminated to glow and fade, evoking the poignancy of the disappeared lightships and the artist’s childhood memories, linked to her father’s love of the sea. The project will be realised in October/November for a two to three week period.
Dorothy Cross’s fascination with lightships goes back to her childhood: “I grew up in Cork, where The Daunt was moored two miles off the coast. The Ghost Ship refers to the memory of the lightships, whose presence was held dear around the Irish coast. Except for three remaining lightships, the vessels have been replaced by automated satellite buoys. The role of the sea has diminished for the Irish people and the view is inwards towards the cities.” The original red, engineless lightships were moored to the bottom of the sea and were crewed by men for weeks on end. Each had large white letters naming the rocks they marked - Daunt, South Rock, Coningbeg, Kish, Lucifer, Barrels, Codling. Manned until 1974, they have now been decommissioned and replaced by automated, electronic buoys.
Commenting on the winning project Gerard O’Toole, Executive Chairman, Nissan Ireland said: “Once again this initiative has attracted many talented artists with innovative and appealing art projects. Ghost Ship is a gentle reminder of the importance of the lightship through a piece of “art” and it gives me great enthusiasm that this proposal will be realised for public appreciation”.
Declan McGonagle, Director, Irish Museum of Modern Art, and Chair of the jury panel, highlighted the growing international interest in the project said: “Once again, the Nissan Art Project has drawn out a proposal which, though dealing with something familiar, is innovative and challenging, and represents a new way of looking at public art and its role in the environment. Dorothy Cross’s Ghost Ship will activate the specific physical context of Dublin Bay and also the minds of its viewers. It is also encouraging to see how Irish artists like Dorothy Cross are now acknowledged as full participants in an international art process”
Born in Cork in 1956, Dorothy Cross’s work has attracted considerable international attention in recent years. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Philadelphia, Paris, Madrid and throughout the United Kingdom and has works in a number of prestigious public and private collections. In 1993 she represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale and was shortlisted for the Glen Dimplex Artists Award in 1995 and 1997. Using a variety of means ranging from casting and photography to taxidermy, Cross reinvents objects evoking personal and collective memories beyond their original form. These memories raise questions of love, sexuality, control, religion and death.
The Nissan Art Project, created and organised in association with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, is intended to give artists working in any medium an opportunity to extend their practice to make a new temporary work for the public domain. This is defined as any space or process in the Dublin area to which the general public has ready unmediated access. The project was first realised in 1997 with For Dublin by Frances Hegarty and Andrew Stones, which presented neon texts from Molly Bloom’s Ulysses monologue in nine city centre locations.
The members of the 1998 jury panel are Mary Jane Jacob, an independent curator based in Chicago; Sandra Percival, Director, Public Art Development Trust, London; Tony Sheehan, Director, Firestation Studios, Dublin; Jim Barrett, Dublin City Architect; Declan McGonagle, Director, and Brenda McParland, Senior Curator: Exhibitions, Irish Museum of Modern Art.