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Ferguson Family Donate Basil Blackshaw Paintings to IMMA

Four paintings by the distinguished Irish artist Basil Blackshaw recently acquired by the Irish Museum of Modern Art were unveiled today (Tuesday 15 July) at the Museum. The works from Blackshaw’s Window Series have been donated to IMMA in memory of the late Vincent Ferguson by his wife Noeleen, his daughters Ciara, Judy and Emma and his sons John Conor and Paul, under section 1003 legislation.

All four paintings were created in the period 2001-2002 and are particularly noteworthy for their remarkable intensity, scale and beauty. The application of these qualities to such a seemingly everyday object as a window marked a fascinating stage in the changing direction which Blackshaw’s work has been taking over the past decade. When asked by Eamonn Mallie, one of the leading authorities on his work, about the Window Series Blackshaw described them as “my most perfect thought”. 

Born in Glengormley, Co Antrim, in 1932, Basil Blackshaw studied at the Belfast College of Art and was awarded a scholarship by the Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) in 1951 to study in Paris. Since then he has exhibited regularly, including several exhibitions at the Arts Council Gallery, Belfast; a solo show at the Watergate Gallery, Washington DC, in 1974; the Ulster Museum, Belfast, in 2002 and at the Fenton Gallery, Cork in 2005. A major book on the artist by Eamonn Mallie was published in 2003.

Vincent Ferguson, who died in May 2007, was equally well known and respected as a company director and art collector. A former director of Astlantic Resources Ltd and Fitzwilton plc, he was more recently a director of Independent News and Media plc. On his retirement from business, he and Noeleen returned to their beloved Sligo to continue their passion for collecting art. In 1997, the Fergusons donated 35 works to IMMA, among them works by such prominent Irish artists as Basil Blackshaw, Brian Burke, Barrie Cooke, Patrick Hall and Anne Madden. This gift has been of immense value to the Museum over the past eleven years and works from it have featured regularly both at IMMA and throughout Ireland through the Museum’s National Programme.

Commenting on the donation, IMMA’s Director, Enrique Juncosa, said: “This new gift not only adds substantially to our holdings of Basil Blackshaw’s works but does it with a group of paintings which are generally considered among the most important of his later work. In them the depiction of objects has almost disappeared in favour of the presentation of light and space. The gift is also a late homage to one of IMMA’s main benefactors Vincent Ferguson, who will always be missed”.

The Museum’s Collection comprises more than 4,500 works in a wide range of media, having grown significantly, through purchases, donations, long-term loans and the commissioning of new works. It is shown in themed exhibitions and rotating displays in the West Wing at IMMA, and also throughout Ireland via the Museum’s unique National Programme. Just last month the Museum announced the acquisition of a major new work by the celebrated Irish-born artist Sean Scully, purchased with a grant form the American Ireland Fund, which was made possible by a gift to the fund by the American businessman and collector Kevin Burke and his family.

Other significant acquisitions over the past five years include three notably film works by the leading Irish artist James Coleman; a sculpture by the iconic French-born artist Louise Bourgeois, donated by the artist; 52 works from the important PJ Carroll Collection of Irish art from the 1960s and ’70s, and the permanent loan of 39 works by prominent Irish artist Hughie O’Donoghue. The presence of IMMA Collection abroad has increased very substantially in recent years, with large-scale exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai, China; Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago, United States; St John’s, Newfoundland, and San Sebastian, Spain, plus numerous loans of individual works to museums and galleries worldwide.

For further information and images please contact Patrice Molloy or Monica Cullinane at Tel: +353 1 612 9900; Email: [email protected] 

15 July 2008