National Gallery of Ireland to reopen refurbished wings in June

Work on Dargan and Milltown wings took more than six years to complete

Visitors last week at the annual Turner exhibition in the National Gallery, which runs for the month of  January. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Visitors last week at the annual Turner exhibition in the National Gallery, which runs for the month of January. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


The National Gallery of Ireland will finally reopen to the public in mid-June after being largely closed for more than six years, gallery director Sean Rainbird has announced.

The gallery, most of which has been closed for a €30 million refurbishment by the Office of Public Works, will reopen with a major international exhibition, Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting, in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

In March 2011, the oldest part of the gallery, the Dargan Wing, which dates from 1864, was closed to the public for refurbishment. That project was extended in 2013 to include the early 20th-century Milltown Wing as part of a larger refurbishment announced by then minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, who said then that the works would be completed in time for the gallery to play a central role in the 1916 Rising centenary commemorations.

However, the project was substantially delayed by a number of unforeseen structural problems.

A small number of rooms, mostly in the 2002 Millennium Wing, have been used to show selections from the main collection and temporary exhibitions during the lengthy refurbishment period.

“We’ve been doing as much as we possibly can,” said Mr Rainbird. “This year, we’ve had almost three-quarters of a million visitors, with 90 per cent of the gallery closed.”

First hangings

The refurbished wings were finally handed back to the NGI by the Office of Public Works in December, and are being prepared by gallery staff, with the first hangings of paintings taking place this week.

“As I went through 20 minutes ago, the first work of art went on the wall,” said Mr Rainbird.

An invited audience also got a preview of the building in mid-December when the Government presented its ambitious Creative Ireland strategy in the Shaw Room. Mr Rainbird said the Creative Ireland strategy represented a “broad platform” which the gallery would be responding to. The strategy includes a commitment to invest further in capital infrastructure and the national cultural institutions and Mr Rainbird said that, while he knew directors of other institutions would be seeking investment, he would also be seeking financing for the final phase of the gallery’s master development plan, now more than a decade old, which proposes refurbishing and integrating all four wings of the complex.

Admission to the gallery will remain free, but admission fees of €15 (concession €10) will be charged for the Vermeer exhibition, and for the upcoming Beyond Caravaggio exhibition, which opens in the Beit Wing on February 11th.

“While we’ve taken into account that we’re a publicly-funded gallery, our subsidy doesn’t cover anything like 100 per cent of our costs,” said Mr Rainbird. Certain activities, such as major temporary exhibitions of a high international standard, were not possible to mount without an admission charge, he said, but such charges would be pegged to a level comparable to those found at publicly-funded theatres, cinemas and other cultural bodies.