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IMMA opens a major retrospective of Mary Swanzy and a new exhibition by Wolfgang Tillmans
Wolfgang Tillmans, red lake, 2002, © Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

DUBLIN.- IMMA presents two major solo exhibitions, Voyages by Irish born modernist master Mary Swanzy (1882 – 1978) and Rebuilding the Future by internationally renowned German artist Wolfgang Tillmans.

These two IMMA initiated exhibitions exemplify the breadth of the museum’s programme. Mary Swanzy is arguably Ireland’s first ‘modernist’ painter and this is the first major retrospective of her work since 1968. This exhibition aims to reintroduce audiences to Swanzy’s extraordinary achievements and reinstate her as a Modern Irish Master. Wolfgang Tillmans’ relationship with IMMA began over 20 years ago, when he first exhibited work at the museum in 1997 as part of a group exhibition of young emerging artists Projects and more recently in 2015 in the popular exhibition What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now. This is his first solo exhibition in Ireland and he has created this exhibition specifically for the IMMA galleries. It follows his critically acclaimed solo show in Tate Modern, London in 2017.

Minister Madigan said “We are certain this historical reframing of Swanzy as a feminist artist of our time will reposition her powerful work on the Irish and International stage. Part of the ongoing important work IMMA does is to connect Irish audiences with contemporary work of international relevance and significance – Wolfgang Tillmans’ exhibition builds on IMMA's twenty-year connection with Tillmans' work. Both exhibitions will be free to the public and we feel sure will have a lasting impact on all that visit them, no doubt sowing the seeds for future generations of Irish artists.”

Wolfgang Tillmans commented “This exhibition at IMMA is long overdue. Having been in two group presentations at the museum, it’s now very timely to realise my first solo exhibition in Ireland.”

Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) is a unique Irish artist. Her level of achievement, world travel and original thinking is unmatched in Irish art, yet this is the first retrospective of her work in 50 years. Born in the late Victorian era, by her early twenties Swanzy had mastered the academic style of painting. She witnessed the birth of Modern art in Paris before the First World War and her work rapidly evolved through the different styles of the day, each of them interpreted and transformed by her in a highly personal way. In 1920, against the background of violence of the Irish War of Independence, she left Ireland in a form of self-imposed exile. Traveling first through Eastern Europe and the Balkans, she then sailed to Hawaii and Samoa from 1923 to 24 - literally crossing the globe. While there she produced a body of work that is unique in an Irish context with images that show her proto-feminism and critique of the colonial system. Best known for her Cubist and Futurist paintings, after 1914 she exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon des Indépendants and the Beaux Arts, alongside artists who are now household names. By 1946 she was included in exhibitions with Chagall, William Scott and Henry Moore but after this time her work fell into obscurity. This may in part have been due to her status as a female artist and indeed she was vocal on issues of gender, remarking; ‘if I had been born Henry instead of Mary my life would have been very different’. This exhibition aims to introduce audiences to her extraordinary achievements.

Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968, Remscheid, Germany) is one of the most accomplished and widely celebrated artists working today, recognised for major contributions to the development of contemporary photography in terms of subject matter, production, scale, presentation and methodology. Rebuilding the Future comprises over 100 works and captures Tillmans’ unique way of working. This new exhibition for IMMA mixes works from throughout his career and in numerous formats, installed in IMMA’s galleries in direct relation to the physical spaces and atmosphere of the museum. While primarily a lens-based artist, Tillmans also works in a variety of other media. The exhibition includes works on paper made with and without a camera, sound work, moving image works and installation. Also central to Tillmans’ practice is the prolific production of books, catalogues and magazine editorials, and more recently, live and recorded music. An immersive new sound work, I Want to Make a Film (2018), which engages with concerns over the speed and development of personal technology and its effects, is shown here at IMMA for the first time.

Rebuilding the Future includes work that is concerned with the process of time, whether it be measured through people or places. The exhibition functions as an open question for the audience to interpret. This broad range of subject matter is reflected in the variety of production and display methods seen in the exhibition. In this, as in all exhibitions produced by Tillmans, the work is selected and installed to reflect both the nature of the physical space and Tillmans’ immediate concerns at the time of the exhibition. Tillmans will give an artist talk about his work prior to the exhibition opening, on Saturday 20 October, in partnership with NCAD. Please see details below under Associated Talks & Events or visit the booking page for details.

A fully illustrated monograph accompanies the Mary Swanzy exhibition with text by Seán Kissane, Curator: Exhibitions, IMMA, and a biography by Liz Cullinane, artist and researcher. An exhibition poster designed by artist will accompany the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition. An exhibition catalogue will also be published in the coming months. All exhibition merchandise will be available to purchase from the IMMA shop.

Mary Swanzy, Voyages, is curated by Seán Kissane, Curator: Exhibitions, IMMA. Voyages is presented as part of the Modern Masters Series and will travel to the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork and Limerick City Gallery of Art in 2019.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Rebuilding the Future, is curated by Sarah Glennie, Director, National College of Art and Design and Rachel Thomas, Senior Curator: Head of Exhibitions, IMMA, in close cooperation with the artist.

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