President delivers Eileen Gray address
Today we in Ireland are justly proud of Eileen Gray and her immense impact on the world of design and architecture. It is moving for example to see the tributes paid to her memory by students at the Irish language school, Meánscoil Ghearman, that is now located in Brownswood House, her childhood family home near Enniscorthy,
County Wexford. The National Museum in Dublin houses a permanent collection of her work. We have been enthusiastic supporters and partners of France and the Centre Pompidou these very days.
You will be pleased, I am sure to learn that the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, under the talented leadership of my friend, Sheila Pratschke, is organising – again in the framework of Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union – a number of exhibitions and events which illustrate well how the artistic influence of Eileen Gray has found a strong echo in contemporary Ireland. Let me mention two in particular:
First, there is an exhibition on the late Peter Rice of Dundalk – who was a consultant engineer on the construction not only of the Roof of the Sydney Opera House, but also on the construction of the Louvre Pyramid and of the Centre Pompidou itself; and
Secondly, an exhibition of furniture designed by Susan Zelouf and Michael Bell. You may have noticed their screen and table in the entrance to the Embassy this evening. I suspect that Eileen would have paused there, had she been joining us this evening.
It is equally gratifying that the local authorities in Roquebrune Cap Martin are generously overseeing the restoration of Eileen Gray’s architectural chef d’oeuvre, the magnificent modernist dwelling E 1027 which she conceived together with Jean Badovici of Romania and built in the period 1926 -1929. This is a true work of genius and talk about being ‘before one’s time….’!
I would like to express hope and confidence, Madame Minister, that the integrity of the Gray design will be the centre of the public presentation of the restored E 1027 – house and plot intertwined – and that it will be a basis and a locale for Franco-Irish cultural cooperation for decades to come.
I’d also like to mention this beautiful publication from the Crafts Council of Ireland, a copy of which is being made available by the Embassy to each of you. This
‘Critical Selection’ publication presents the work of 26 of Ireland’s most accomplished craft workers, among them Deirdre McLoughlin, whose work is on exhibition in the Centre Culturel Irlandais until Feb 22nd.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In closing I would like on behalf of all of us to thank you, Ambassador and Rosemary as well as your dedicated colleagues, for your hospitality this evening. And in closing let me once again congratulate all those – not excluding the Embassy itself – who are responsible for bringing this remarkable project to fruition at the Luminous Centre Pompidou.
May the rightful place of Eileen Gray – a great Irishwoman of France and a truly seminal world designer and architect – be forever assured.
Go raibh maith agaibh!