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
She’s all too aware that Imma is operating in a difficult financial environment. “In terms of percentages, our funding cuts are in the high 40s from their maximum point. I think the national cultural institutions have sustained higher percentage cuts than Arts Council clients, say. Those seem to be in the high teens. Looking to the immediate future, I’d say our funding just about equals our running costs.” What this means is that funding may keep the doors open but may not provide anything for people to come and see.
“That’s just the way it is. We have to try to be smart and deal with it. The next couple of years will be difficult. We have to build income. Fortunately there is experience of that here in terms of running other events on the site. We’ve analysed our cost base and made savings, but there’s a limit to that. Our job is to make sure our resources are focused on delivering good projects.”
The Irish Architecture Foundation will curate a series of events from November. Early next year sees a Patrick Scott retrospective, in co-operation with the Visual Carlow art centre. One casualty, though, is a planned exhibition on the great Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies, who died last year. Funding and partnership issues have ruled that out.
EILEEN GRAY: ARCHITECT DESIGNER PAINTER
Superb, eye-opening show that does justice to a celebrated Irishwoman’s talents
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that a big exhibition of the work of Eileen Gray has been on the to-do list of pretty much every curator in Ireland for the past 30 or 40 years. The obstacles always proved too great, and in the end it was the Pompidou Centre, in Gray’s adopted home city of Paris, that managed to come up with a superb show that does justice to her talents. Now the Irish Museum of Modern Art has brought that exhibition to Ireland – and even if you’re already familiar with her work, ‘Eileen Gray: Architect Designer Painter’ is an eye-opener.
There was an assumption that Imma would get a scaled-down version of the original. The show’s curator, Chloé Pitiot, who is passionate about Gray’s work and has overseen every detail of the selection and installation in Kilmainham, says this is not the case.
The fragility of much of the material meant some pieces could not travel. But they have been substituted by other examples, including the prototype of a folding wall table, from the National Museum of Ireland, that has never been exhibited before, and, also from the museum, a remarkable celluloid screen that could not be accommodated in Paris.
As Pitiot explains it, Gray’s considerable reputation rests on only a fraction of her achievements and character. “The view of her in France would have been as a rather cold modernist. But there is a great deal more to her than that.”
Where Le Corbusier and his successors embody a chilly vision of modernity, Gray’s work is, Pitiot argues, always imbued with a more human sensibility, what she terms a sensitive modernity.
Gray’s core strength, she says, is her freedom of spirit. “She did not accept boundaries. As well as her architectural and design work, she always painted, always took photographs. She experimented with collage. She was a global, total artist.”