Stage is set for airing of the green
A number of events in the programmes were always going to happen anyway, including the annual Turner watercolour exhibit at the National Gallery in Dublin in January, and Gerard Byrne’s mid-term retrospective at London’s Whitechapel Gallery from January to March.
However, the presidency provides scope for these to be presented to a wider audience, and to showcase other projects alongside them.
With 2013 also being the year of the Gathering, plus Derry as City of Culture, this does seem to be the ideal time to focus attention on our arts.
Still, how realistic is it to expect people around the world to suddenly “get” Ireland? Previous presidencies have left infrastructural legacies: the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, now home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, was renovated for the 1984 presidency, but acting chief executive of Culture Ireland, Christine Sisk, thinks the rewards from this presidency will come with the contacts made.
The Pompidou Centre in Paris is holding a major exhibition on the work of Eileen Gray (February-May). This coincides with a Zelouf + Bell contemporary furniture exhibition at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, which the Pompidou will be jointly promoting. Crucially, with funding for the arts in ever shorter supply, Sisk also points to the opportunities Europe offers.
Creative Europe, a major funding stream, should be ratified during Ireland’s presidency, with a budget of about €1.8 billion over seven years: connecting with potential European project partners will be key to unlocking it for arts in this country.
In 2012, Culture Ireland was depicted as fighting for its existence, but the breadth and scope of the Culture Connects programme shows there’s life and a great deal of purpose in the organisation yet. So if, during the next six months, you find yourself sitting in a bar or cafe with a Frenchman, a Dutchman, a German, or any other mix of nationalities, maybe this is the time to start thinking European. It feels like the way of the future.