A mission to bring Irish art to the wider world

Mother’s Tankstation and the Oliver Sears Gallery have designs on the international art fairs

The success of the Frieze Art Fairs reflects the way the commercial side of the art world has developed. Commercial galleries have fought a difficult battle to maintain something of their erstwhile level of clout as auction houses and international art fairs make apparently unstoppable inroads into the primary market.

Those buyers with serious money to spend enjoy the glitter of the fairs rather than seeking out individual galleries. If they want to compete, the galleries have been compelled to incur the considerable expense of participation.

This has presented serious difficulties for virtually all art galleries – and opportunities for some. It has been especially difficult for Irish galleries, which generally operate at a fraction of the financial level of the big players.

The international art market is notoriously fickle and prone to upsets. So far, there have always been people with sufficient wealth to keep the art fair circus on the road, but far more often than not they are looking for headline names at suitably headline prices.


Mother’s Tankstation is one of the few Irish galleries to have pursued consistent representation at the fairs, and it will be there when Frieze London 2016 kicks off this week.

The Oliver Sears Gallery, meanwhile, will also be in London – not at Frieze but not far away, in Fitzrovia, staging an extensive group exhibition in which the gallery's own artists (including Hughie O'Donoghue, Donald Teskey and Colin Davidson) and other Irish share a space with some historically illustrious names.

Working with Brian Kennedy as curator, Sears has come up with a breath-takingly ambitious show, In Residence II: Look Again, organised in six thematic sections. It is the second time Sears has done it, and he hopes it will become a recurrent project .

The gallery has a very good, wide-ranging stable of artists who show with it in Dublin. They will all be there; so too will work by Picasso, Anselm Kiefer, Alex Katz, Sean Scully, Andy Warhol, Diane Arbus, David Hockney, Grayson Perry, Jenny Holzer and others.

For Sears, it is very much about situating contemporary Irish art in an international context, and he is attempting to do that in several ways. He argues that London is one of the two major art capitals – New York being the other. Frieze is London’s prime art-selling event and draws an enormous audience.

In Residence II will compete with a plethora of other arts events trying to tempt some of that audience, but it's certainly worth trying.

Finally, the Irish art is contextualised not only in London during Frieze but also in the company it keeps: Picasso et al. The venue is 33 Fitzroy Square, once the home of the famed Omega Workshops Ltd, the Bloomsbury Group's design project and a venue capacious enough to accommodate work by some 75 artists.

In Residence II: Look Again, Modern and Contemporary Irish Art in an International Context is in the Oliver Sears Gallery@33 Fitzroy Square, London, October 6th-29th, oliversearsgallery.com

Ann Quinn: The Place Where I Stand to Look Out Over This World
Taylor Galleries, Dublin

There is a hyper-real quality to the paintings of Ann Quinn. That is not to say they are photographic or photo-realist – they aren’t, though she uses her own photographs as preparatory sketches and references. Through a combination of factors she manages to bring an enhanced clarity to what she sees and paints. Look closely and you will find amazing, almost microscopic levels of detail. Equally, you will encounter broadly brushed passages that seem virtually abstract.

Quinn has written about beginning each painting from pure abstraction. Often the paint is applied in thin glazes, and then suddenly you find a bit of impasto sitting on the surface. Somehow she makes all these potentially contradictory elements work perfectly well together, and virtually all of the 18 pieces in the show feel absolutely right.

That is no small feat, because each is quite distinctive and different. It's never just a case of applying a formula on any level, which is probably not surprising given that Quinn covers a lot of ground. The places where she's stood to look out over the world throughout the last year include Donegal, Dublin, Kildare and Farrera, a dramatically situated village high in the Catalan Pyrenees. She enjoyed a second arts residency there, and says it reminds her of her background in rural, agricultural Donegal.

Quinn has described her childhood home on the family farm as her first arts residency. She went on to study at NCAD but, following her sell-out graduation show in 2000, endured an unhappy spell when she worked as a cleaner and neglected her work. She credits friend and contemporary Gillian Lawler with getting her back on track, and she's remained firmly there ever since.

Several paintings in the Taylor show are likely to stop you in your tracks. Analyse their component parts and it remains unclear as to how Quinn managed the magical feat of conjuring up the overall vision.

Quinn has said that she aims to get the atmosphere of a place. Of course, she is trying to pin down her own take on the atmosphere, on everything. It is her own personality and sensibility that shape her response. The strength of her work stems from the fact that she applies herself to the task with great ability, rigour and integrity.

Until October 8th, taylorgalleries.ie