Asbestos traces found in exhibit at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

Work by Brazilian artist went on display following safety assurances from galleries where it had been shown

Irish Museum of Modern Art, where the exhibit, entitled Nas Quebradas, was on display during the summer. Photograph: George Munday/Getty

Irish Museum of Modern Art, where the exhibit, entitled Nas Quebradas, was on display during the summer. Photograph: George Munday/Getty

 

Traces of asbestos have been found in an exhibit that had been on display at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma).

Traces were found in a work by the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica entitled Nas Quebradas which was on display in Imma during the summer and closed on October 5th.

The discovery was made on Sunday by an environmental hygienist who examined Nas Quebradas for asbestos before it was scheduled to be destroyed. The traces were found in intact sheets of concrete within the work.

The east wing of the gallery was closed off to staff yesterday and the work was removed by a specialist environmental services company.

Exposure

A full exposure assessment and interim report are due later today. The Office of Public Works (OPW) has been informed.

Nas Quebradas is a copy of an original work which was created in 1979. It is made out of corrugated iron, wood and brick and is meant to resemble a home in a shanty town or favela in Rio de Janeiro.

The original work contained traces of asbestos, but the one that was in Imma was a copy.

An Imma spokeswoman said the art work had come from exhibitions at the CCB Berardo in Portugal and MMK in Frankfurt, Germany, and both had assured Imma that it was safe.

“We got the right assurances at the time to put it on display. It was only when we were going to destroy it that that the technician decided to check it further,” she said.

Postponed

The work was due to travel to a gallery in the United States, but as the US portion of the tour was postponed, Imma was asked to destroy the exhibition copy.

The spokeswoman said initial assessments suggested there was a “very low risk” of danger to the public as asbestos only poses a risk to health when fibres are released usually during destruction.

Asbestos can cause lung disease or cancer and is banned as a building material. However, the Heath and Safety Authority (HSA) website states that “as long as asbestos is in good condition and there is no disturbance or damage to the asbestos containing materials (ACMs), it will not pose a risk to health as fibres will not be released.”