The best places to experience Irish culture overseas

From Joyce manuscripts in Buffalo to Bacon paintings in Bilbao, a globetrotter’s guide

While the Irish have a reputation for travelling the world, so too does our culture. Beyond the ubiquitous Irish pub, with its varying degrees of authenticity, where can you go to experience works of Irish art, architecture and literature that now live abroad? Here are some to get you started.

Harry Clarke

You can see Harry Clarke's incredible stained-glass works in churches around Ireland: from St Patrick's Purgatory in Donegal, to Timoleague, West Cork; as well as in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. But for one of his most wonderful, and controversial, head to Miami. The Geneva Window was commissioned for the International Labour Court in Geneva in 1925. Clarke's design, depicting scenes from Irish literature, was said to be too scandalous, and the window was never installed. Briefly on show in Government Buildings in Dublin, Clarke's widow bought it back, and, in 1988, it was sold to collector Mitchell Wolfson. Drag yourself off Miami Beach to go visit. It's glorious.

Wolfsonian Institute, Miami, USA

Francis Bacon

While the Hugh Lane Gallery is proud to display Francis Bacon's studio, sketches and unfinished pieces; his larger and most famous works are all elsewhere, with some going into private collections for phenomenal amounts at auction: in 2013 Three Studies of Lucien Freud sold for $142.4 million to art collector Elaine Wynn at Christies. Works in public collections include those at the Sainsbury Collection in East Anglia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia, Tate Britain, MoMA New York and the Guggenheim, but your best bet, until mid January 2017, is to head to Spain. The Guggenheim Bilbao, which is always fun to visit, not least for its crazy Frank Gehry building, is showing 50 Bacon paintings alongside works by those who influenced him. While you're there, head into the old quarter of Bilbao for tasty tapas and plenty of atmosphere.


Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez is at Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain until January 8th, 2017

Brian O’Doherty

Born in Ballaghaderreen, Brian O'Doherty is brilliant. A qualified medical doctor, he wrote a Booker-shortlisted novel and the ground-breaking Inside The White Cube essays, was art critic for the New York Times, and made films. As if that wasn't enough, he is also a celebrated artist. His works are in collections at IMMA, MoMA, the Met New York, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh is currently working on raising the funds to restore his Ogham Cycle paintings, but to surround yourself in O'Doherty wonder, take a trip to Todi. The Casa Dipinta (painted house) is an 18th century house in a lovely golden-stone Umbrian hill town, and for the past 40 years, O'Doherty has been painting the walls. Find trompe l'oeil, his signature rope drawings and Ogham works in an unforgettable setting. It's almost like being inside his mind.

Casa Dipinta, Via della Mura Antiche, Todi, Italy year round by appointment. / Elisa Picchiotti +3938 942 46262

John Gerrard

With an international reputation, Co Tipperary-born artist John Gerrard is these days more frequently seen outside Ireland. His Solar Reserve installation outside New York's Lincoln Center in 2014 was gifted by Leonardo di Caprio to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art, while another edition is at MoMA New York. These aren't on permanent view, so to be sure of your Gerrard-fix, find a permanent projection of his real-time 3D meditation on intensive agriculture Sow Farm at Tate Britain, and head to Norway for an incredible installation of Pulp Press, bringing a printing press to evocative digital life at the Kistefos Sculpture Park.

Tate Britain, London, UK

Kistefos Museum, Jevnaker, Norway season runs May to October

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray's iconic furniture designs are on show at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, and it's pretty wonderful furniture at that. Her Dragon Chair, which had been owned by Yves Saint Laurent, sold at auction in 2009 for £19million (€22m). For a full-on experience of the work of Ireland's pioneering Modernist that will cost you considerably less, take a trip to the South of France. Gray's sleek white villa E-1027, designed in 1929, has been completely restored, and opened to the public last year. Gray and her partner Jean Badovici also designed the furniture and fittings, while le Corbusier, controversially painted murals there. It's a lovely part of the world, and Monaco is just down the road.

E-1027, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France book online at

Heneghan Peng

Irish architects travel well. Just take a look at America's White House – it was designed by James Hoban: raised in Co Kilkenny, he left Ireland for the States in 1785. For a more recent venture into Ireland's built cultural diaspora, head for Ramallah, where Róisín Heneghan and Shih-Fu Peng of Heneghan Peng have created the new Palestinian Museum, which opened in May of this year. Heneghan Peng are also working on the Grand Egyptian Museum, and the Canadian Canoe Museum in Ontario.

Palestinian Museum, Ramallah, Palestine

Oscar Wilde

Irish writers are famed the world over, so it's perhaps no wonder their archives can be far flung too. Discover one of the world's most extensive collections relating to Oscar Wilde at Clark Library, UCLA in California. The library initially purchased original manuscripts from Wilde's son Vyvyan Holland, and went on from there. They've since expanded the collection to include important editions by WB Yeats and others. You can register to visit the collection as a reader, but not until next year as the Library (a gorgeous building in its own right) is currently closed "for a seismic retrofit" – something you definitely wouldn't get at home! Meantime, head to Paris, where the Petit Palais is holding the brilliantly titled Insolence Incarnate, celebrating the life of the writer, who died in Paris in 1900.

Clark Library, UCLA, California, USA

Insolence Incarnate is at the Petit Palais, Paris until January 15th, 2017

James Joyce

Another Irish writer who spent years in fruitful European exile is James Joyce. You'll find a large archive of his writings and materials at the University at Buffalo in upstate New York. There are more than 10,000 pages of the author's working papers, notebooks, correspondence and memorabilia, available for research by appointment. But if you want to soak up the settings from which Joyce wrote Dubliners and began work on Ulysses, head for the museums dedicated to him in Trieste, and Zurich where Joyce died. You'll find itineraries for walking tours, as well as Joyce memorabilia. In Zurich you can also stop by the James Joyce pub on Pelikanstrasse – which is more than just a name: the entire Victorian interior of Jury's Antique Bar, formerly of Dublin's Dame Street, was auctioned off and shipped, in its entirety to Zurich. Joyce had drank there in its Dublin incarnation, and it is mentioned in Ulysses.

Joyce Museum, Trieste, Italy

James Joyce Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland

Georgia O’Keeffe

The legacies of emigration mean that many figures from cultural history have Irish ancestry. Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings of magnified flowers and desert landscapes have made her a seminal figure in twentieth-century art. Her father was of Irish descent. Does that make her Irish? You could apply the same rules as the Ireland soccer team, or just enjoy the connection. A major exhibition of her work is at Tate Modern, London until October 30th (, and year round at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in New Mexico.

O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

From Paris to New York

Alongside works on permanent display, travellers to Paris can soak up a little part of the city that will be forever Ireland on Rue des Irlandais (Napoleon was kind enough to give it the name in 1807), where you'll find the Centre Culturel Irlandais. With residencies, concerts, exhibitions, performances and literary events, it's a great place for cultural exchange. See Belfast-born photographer Hannah Starkey's exhibition Women, from November 11th until January 8th, 2017. In New York, check out the Irish Arts Center which runs a programme of theatre, literature, exhibitions, and film. Catch Colin Davidson's paintings of some of Ireland's leading cultural figures there until January 20th, 2017. Worth a visit too is the American Irish Historical Society, with a wonderful building on Fifth Avenue, up by Central Park, and a programme of exhibitions and events year-round (

Centre Culturel Irlandais, Rue des Irlandais, Paris, France

Irish Arts Center, New York, USA