Imma comes back with a bang
The Irish Museum of Modern Art is reopening its main building, at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, with a weekend of family-friendly events – and a terrific Eileen Gray exhibition
Interactive installation: Rhona Byrne’s Bolthole
One Foot in the Real World: curator Marguerite O’Molloy prepares an untitled 2001 work by Louise Bourgeois. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
One Foot in the Real World: Max Bill’s Doublement. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
In the Line of Beauty: Lisa Murphy’s Colour Sphere Rating System for Consumer Responsibility. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Eileen Gray: Architect Designer Painter: curator Chloé Pitiot checks part of the exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Eileen Gray: Architect Designer Painter: art handler Andrew Cassidy installs part of the exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Celebrated: Eileen Gray
When the Irish Museum of Modern Art closed its doors in November 2011 for essential work on its base, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the fact that the building was earmarked as a venue for events during Ireland’s EU presidency in the first half of this year seemed likely to ensure that it would reopen, as planned, last January.
Complications soon emerged, including the planning permission needed before an essential new art lift could be installed. July this year was proposed as a more likely reopening date, and programming proceeded on that basis, but by the end of 2012 it was clear that October was more realistic.
So it has proved to be – though work on the lift will continue until the year’s end. In the meantime, Imma’s off-site residency in the National Concert Hall building, on Earlsfort Terrace, was extended. There were even suggestions that Imma should retain Earlsfort Terrace as a city-centre venue, but the pattern of delays in reopening Kilmainham put paid to that.
The residency had its up and downs. It included Alice Maher’s extremely popular and successful survey exhibition. The group show that succeeded it, I knOw yoU, was extended through the summer, long past the point at which it had exhausted its potential audience.
Now, finally, Imma is reopening its main building at Kilmainham, with a family- friendly weekend of talks, tours and events, including Bolthole, Rhona Byrne’s interactive installation, starting at noon today and tomorrow, and culminating in a tea dance at 4pm tomorrow.
The newly renamed Garden Galleries, currently housing the excellent Leonora Carrington exhibition The Celtic Surrealist, have been open throughout the works, and the Carrington is something of a dream date with Eileen Gray: Artist Designer Painter, in the main building. “We suddenly noticed that the programme was strong on women,” says Sarah Glennie, Imma’s director. “It wasn’t a conscious thing.”
Prompted by those two shows, One Foot in the Real World, a concurrent exhibition drawn from the permanent collection by Marguerite O’Molloy, an assistant curator, foregrounds work that takes the psychology of architectural space as a starting point. It’s not just a question of taking work from the storeroom. Several installations are very ambitious, technically and physically. Antony Gormley’s Still Falling is a disconcertingly massive cast-iron sculpture. The raw blockwork enclosure framing Mark Manders’s installation sets a bleak tone. Juan Muñoz’s Dublin Rain Room is a model of the room it occupies, except with rain falling perpetually, as though in a film by Andrei Tarkovsky.
A past criticism of Imma is that it does not do enough for new Irish art. Perhaps mindful of this, In the Line of Beauty is a modestly scaled show featuring 11 younger Irish artists, including two recent graduates, juxtaposed with the engravings by William Hogarth, the 18th-century English artist, from which the phrase stems. Rachel Thomas, who has curated In the Line of Beauty, had in mind the way younger artists find novel concepts of beauty.
Sarah Glennie is keen to focus on emerging Irish artists. “In its early days Imma was exceptional in bringing in contemporary art from abroad. Now there are a number of institutions doing that. We have to make sure Irish art gains an international profile. I’ve no doubts about the quality of the artists. We’re opening our studio residency programme to curators from abroad, for example, so they can come and make studio visits. Acquisitions is a much more difficult issue. They can only improve with fundraising.”