Nailing it: How Tropical Popical made it to the National Gallery

A series of looks have been prompted by specific paintings during year-long creative partnership

Gold sequin  dress by Simone Rocha. Nails by Joe Caslin. ‘This exhibition reaffirms Tropical Popical as an art form rather than just a nail bar,’ says  Andrea Horan

Gold sequin dress by Simone Rocha. Nails by Joe Caslin. ‘This exhibition reaffirms Tropical Popical as an art form rather than just a nail bar,’ says Andrea Horan

 

Flashy fashions, colourful nails and more than a dash of kitsch – that’s the mantra of the flamboyant, “art obsessed” Andrea Horan of the award-winning Tropical Popical nail bar in Dublin. Horan sees her business as much more than a beauty salon – she is currently curator of a mixed-media exhibition that opens at the National Gallery on July 18th. It brings to an end her year-long creative partnership with the gallery, during which she responded to its collections and new exhibitions each month through her nail art.

“You have to make things happen, nobody else will do it,” says Horan whose first collaboration – a pop-up nail bar – was a one-off response to the Vermeer exhibition but proved such a success that the relationship was extended to monthly events. A series of looks prompted by specific paintings were available in both the salon and in the nail bar in the gallery’s Millennium Wing, resulting in 45 sets of nails being presented during the 12-month period.

I hate the elitism of the art world and this takes away the snobbishness

These images showcase five key looks for the exhibition using Irish fashion stars Simone Rocha, Richard Malone and Colin Horgan alongside promising newcomers Aideen Gaynor and Izzy O Reilly. They will be displayed in vinyl in the Millennium Wing studio spreading across one whole wall, nails displayed on specially-cast fake hands.

Izzy O’Reilly “Rubber Match” latex inflatable dress
Izzy O’Reilly “Rubber Match” latex inflatable dress

Fashion and art

Ancillary events planned around the exhibition include an “In Conversation With” public event with Richard Malone, the London-based Irish fashion designer discussing questions about fashion and art and high and low forms of expression on July 30th. There will also be nail art classes in the gallery while design team Jill and Gill are making limited edition fine art prints and a “wearable art” sweater which will be for sale in the gallery shop.

Drawstring split jacket and curve split skirt by Richard Malon; hoop earrings, stylist’s own. Nail - Countess Markievicz photography portrait
Drawstring split jacket and curve split skirt by Richard Malon; hoop earrings, stylist’s own. Nail - Countess Markievicz photography portrait

“This exhibition reaffirms Tropical Popical as an art form rather than just a nail bar – and that is our point of difference to a beauty salon. It addresses questions of high/low art. I hate the elitism of the art world and this takes away the snobbishness. It also raises questions about whether location of art changes its meaning – does having a platform in the National Gallery validate nail art as art? To me it opens other people’s minds and puts more value on it,” says Horan.

The exhibition continues until the second week in September

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