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IMMA presents a major international exhibition, ‘Self-Determination: A Global Perspective’

Oksana Pavlenko, Women’s Meeting, 1932, tempera on canvas. National Art Museum of Ukraine
Oksana Pavlenko, Women’s Meeting, 1932, tempera on canvas. National Art Museum of Ukraine

This autumn, IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) presents a major international exhibition Self-Determination: A Global Perspective, one of the largest exhibitions in the Museum’s history, opening on Thursday 30 November 2023. Self-Determination is the culmination of a three-year research and commissioning project, in dialogue with museums and institutions worldwide, presenting over 110 artists. Focusing on new nation-states which emerged in the wake of the First World War, it explores the role of art and artists in relation to the expression of national identities, nation-building and statecraft. The exhibition is part of the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012–2023.

Bringing together a range of Irish and international works, both modern and contemporary, the exhibition illuminates the shared experiences of early 20th century new states. It includes key works from national and international collections – including the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU), who have sent major works from Kyiv to Dublin for the exhibition – as well as new commissions by artists invited to respond to the theme of self-determination.

The juxtaposition of historical and contemporary perspectives is a key element of the exhibition. IMMA has commissioned new works by Array Collective, Jasmina Cibic, Declan Clarke, Minna Henriksson and İz Öztat. The exhibition also presents co-commissions by Banu Çennetoğlu, and Larissa Sansour and Søren Lind. These commissions benefit from a century of hindsight, inviting audiences to navigate between the past and the present, fostering a deeper understanding of the long-term impacts of nation building.

Two major Ukrainian art institutions, the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU) and the Museum of Theatre, Music, and Cinema of Ukraine, are lending more than 20 artworks to the exhibition. These works, which will have travelled from Kyiv to Dublin for this collaboration, reflect the bold creative expression of Ukrainian national identity after the First World War, and attest to the creative fruition of a distinct Ukrainian modernism. IMMA is honoured to work with partners in Kyiv to show these important artworks in Ireland, reflecting on the urgency of self-determination both historically and in the present day.

In addition, the exhibition will include a number of artworks by contemporary artists, reflecting on the preoccupations of the project. This will encompass works from the IMMA Collection as well as a number of key contemporary loans, including works by Ursula Burke, Dorothy Cross, Ieva Epnere, Dragana Jurišić, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Gülsün Karamustafa, Istvan Laszlo, Niamh McCann, Brian O’Doherty, Alan Phelan, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Sasha Sykes and Dilek Winchester.

Self-Determination: A Global Perspective is part of the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012–2023, which marks the 100-year anniversary of the foundation of the Irish State. In 1919, Arthur Griffith, writing from Gloucester Prison, urged his colleagues to ‘mobilise the poets’ to help make Ireland’s case for independence on the international stage. Griffith’s letter acknowledges the role of art and culture in developing international solidarities and justifying Ireland’s right, among other small nations, to ‘self-determine’. It also highlights the new possibilities for artists in the early twentieth century, an era of collapsing empires and seismic geopolitical shifts, to articulate and enact radical modern and democratic principles.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD welcomes the opening of the exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art: “This is a significant exhibition that is inspired by our own journey of self-determination in Ireland. It is most fitting that my Department is supporting the exhibition and associated IMMA programming under the Decade of Centenaries Programme. Putting the Irish story in the context of the wider historical international movement through the medium of diverse multi-national cultural imagination and expression is highly effective in helping audiences to gain a deeper grasp of history and the perspectives and interpretation of great artists from the period.”

Conceived by IMMA Director Annie Fletcher, Self-Determination was developed by lead curator Seán Kissane, lead researcher Nathan O’Donnell and commissions curator Johanne Mullan, following a process of speculative enquiry and long-term consultation and exchange with researchers, artists and curators from around the world. It asks questions around how diverse countries understood the formation of the new state; how it was imagined; and how contemporary artists today reckon with the legacies of this period. At the same time it explores some of the common cultural strategies that emerged across many of the new nation-states including Finland (1917), Estonia (1918), Latvia (1918), Poland (1918), Ukraine (1917), Turkey (1923), and Egypt (1922), against the backdrop of the international movement towards self-determination, most famously articulated by Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Talks in 1919.

Each of the new states produced its own cultural complexities, with its own traditions, histories, and industries to be reimagined in line with the new imperatives of modernity. Self-Determination: A Global Perspective explores common strategies and methodologies developed by artists, cultural practitioners, and others invested in the formation of a new state in the first half of the twentieth century.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication, Art and Self-Determination: A Reader, edited by Lisa Moran (Curator: Engagement and Learning, IMMA) and Stephen O’Neill (IMMA/IRC Enterprise Postdoctoral Research Fellow).

Self-Determination: A Global Perspective is supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012–2023.

1 Nov 2023

– ENDS –

For further information and images please contact:
Monica Cullinane | [email protected]
Patrice Molloy | 
[email protected]

Additional notes to editors

Self-Determination: A Global Perspective
30 November 2023 – 21 April 2024

Admission Free

Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10am – 5.30pm.
Wednesday: 11.30am – 5.30pm.
Sunday: 12noon – 5.30pm.
Webpage: Self-Determination: A Global Perspective – IMMA

Artists commissions

Commissioned artists are Array Collective, Banu Çennetoğlu, Jasmina Cibic, Declan Clarke, Minna Henriksson, İz Öztat, and Larissa Sansour and Søren Lind. Throughout 2023 IMMA Residencies enabled sited research and production supports for several commissions.

Art and Self-Determination: A Reader

The Self-Determination reader comprises some 30 texts addressing the theme of self-determination drawn from the 2022 International Conference: 100 years of Self-Determination and the International Summer School, alongside an introduction to the exhibition and illustrated list of works.

Conference: 100 years of Self-Determination

An international research conference took place from 9 to 11 November 2022, organised by Lisa Moran (Curator: Engagement and Learning, IMMA); Sophie Byrne (IMMA Talks and Public Programmes) and Stephen O’Neill (IMMA/IRC Enterprise Postdoctoral Research Fellow). Available to watch back are key papers presented by invited keynote speakers and selected researchers, drawn from an open call for papers responding to conference themes – Self Determination Resources – IMMA

Podcast: IMMA Past Futures
A related podcast series on the shared site histories of IMMA / RHK co-hosted by Barry Kehoe and Stephen Taylor (IMMA Visitor Engagement Team), produced by Sophie Byrne (IMMA Talks and Public Programmes) is available to listen back too – IMMA Past Futures Podcast – IMMA

Poetry as Commemoration

IMMA is collaborating with the project Poetry as Commemoration, an initiative of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive at University College Dublin and supported by the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 programme. Poetry as Commemoration is a project led by Catherine Wilsdon that encourages creative engagement with the material history of the revolutionary period. Throughout the exhibition the Poetry as Commemoration Jukebox will be installed in the Courtyard at IMMA – the jukebox is a sound installation that animates public spaces through the medium of poetry. Poet-led workshops will also run over the course of the exhibition.


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