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First major exhibition of Irish art in London in over 30 years opens
Still Life, c. 1959 © Norah McGuinness. Courtesy AIB Collection.

LONDON.- The first major exhibition of Irish art to be held in London for over 30 years opens 13 May, at the Mall Galleries, The Mall SW1. Entitled The Art of a Nation, the selected works celebrate the rich story of Irish art from 1880 to the present day. The exhibition will be opened by Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD.

Drawing on Allied Irish Banks’ incomparable collection of paintings, photography, tapestry, sculptures and video, this exhibition includes more than 70 works by many of Ireland’s greatest artists. Referencing key moments in Ireland’s rich history, from the War of Independence to the present day, the works range from 19th century en plein air painters such as Aloysius O’Kelly and Sir John Lavery to the Dublin Painters Sean Keating, Jack B. Yeats and Paul Henry. Iconic moments of Irish life are presented in works by Harry Kernoff & Grace Henry.

The exhibition also includes modernist works by Sean Scully and Hughie O’Donoghue, and reflects on the strength and depth of contemporary Irish art through the work of John Gerrard and Caroline McCarthy. The exhibition includes a work by Shane Blount, a 35-year old self-taught artist whose (family) portrait is depicted with gritty realism.

Presented in collaboration with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, this exhibition offers a fascinating survey of the national essence of Irish art spanning 125 years.

The Allied Irish Banks collection began in 1980, acquiring works in order to preserve and support this key aspect of Ireland’s cultural heritage. From the outset, Allied Irish Banks wished to build a representative collection, including works by Irish artists based at home and abroad and works by foreign artists operating in Ireland. It traces the development of Irish art, beginning with the birth of modernism around 1900.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, said: “This shared collection from AIB and the Crawford Gallery is of considerable depth and quality, spanning 125 years of Irish art and encompassing works from so many of our greatest artists. It is also very significant that it is the first major exhibition of Irish art in London for more than three decades. I am delighted that my Department is supporting this exhibition at the Mall Galleries, which I have no doubt enhance the already considerable appreciation for Irish art and culture in London.”

AIB Chairman, Richard Pym, said: “The AIB collection is regarded as one of the finest in Ireland, scrupulously put together over more than three decades. We are delighted that the public in Britain has this opportunity to see the depth of Ireland’s culture and heritage”.

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