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Connect Four: Dublin Art

By Visit DublinDublin's Official Tourism SiteBIO
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Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, a fine exponent of Irish contemporary art, recently celebrated 30 years in business. The venerable gallery is home to thirty artists, shaping Irish art and the central Dublin cultural scene through inventive exhibitions, public works of art and the occasional late night party. Here, curator Rayne Booth gives us a whistle-stop tour of some of the city’s other awesome galleries...

Connect Four: Dublin Art

There are three major Dublin art colleges, so for a relatively small city, this means a lot of trained artists and creative people floating around.

Happily for the city, some of these artists have been getting their hands on empty properties, from warehouses, to tenantless office blocks built during the Celtic Tiger’s heyday. What has resulted has been an exciting new crop of galleries, studios and hybrid spaces; a shot in the arm for Dublin’s gallery scene and for art in Ireland.

As well as these new enterprises, Dublin is home to a number of stalwart galleries, whose creative directors have spent the best parts of their careers bringing challenging, exciting visual art to Dublin audiences. These scenes combined make for a small but very well rounded gallery experience for visitors to the city and natives alike. Another thing that makes a visit to Dublin special if you are a visual arts lover is that in general, access to exhibitions, galleries and museums in Dublin is totally free of charge.

Here are just four galleries adding life to the Dublin arts and culture scene that has blossomed in recent years...

The Douglas Hyde Gallery

Tucked away in the arts block of Trinity College Dublin, this must be one of the most beautiful gallery spaces in the city. Its modernist design makes a challenging but always impeccably curated space for displaying artworks.

Director John Hutchinson manages to balance the work perfectly with the serene setting, with Trinity’s Provost House garden peeking in through a number of the tall windows. Over the years, so many interesting and influential international artists have been shown here that it is hard to keep count, alongside a healthy number of Irish artists in solo presentations.

As well as this, John Hutchinson’s interest in native artefacts, craft, outsider art and music has always been a thread that weaves through the programme, connecting exhibitions and artists across space and time. The eclectic Gallery 2 programme sees everything from Japanese Textiles to smaller presentations of artist like Agnes Martin, to the work of outsider artists like Frank Walter.

Don’t let the somewhat austere and quiet entrance lobby put you off, be brave and browse the wonderful selection of books before continuing down the stairs to the gallery with an open mind. 

Entry is free and the gallery is open Monday - Saturday.

Connect Four: Dublin Art
Connect Four: Dublin Art

Block T

Constantly innovating, constantly pushing, the people behind Block T are artists who met in college, graduating a few years ago into a landscape where there were few opportunities for young emerging artists in the city. They made the brave decision to take on a mammoth disused warehouse building in the Smithfield area of the city – an area which was redeveloped in the mid noughties and quickly became a shiny new dead zone of empty commercial units and apartments with no tenants.

The scale of Block T’s ambition is such that their influence on the neighbourhood has been incredibly positive. Their current set up, in a large disused office block, holds over 70 individual studio units in which artists, designers and creatives work. Smithfield is becoming a buzzing new creative quarter and Block T were the first ones in.

As well as the studio spaces, they have recently claimed a ground floor former showroom which has become a large gallery for emerging artists work, and will soon also hold a café and print studio. The Directors are keen that Block T will always wash its own face, financially, and have set it up as a self-sustaining business. In a year when the national budget for the arts has been cut by yet another 8%, making a total of 38% of cuts over the last five years, this could prove to be a very smart approach.

Kevin Kavanagh Gallery

Kevin Kavanagh began life as a gallerist as far back as 1991, and has been a constant presence on the Dublin art scene ever since. His most recent space is in Chancery lane, near the back of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Its polished concrete floors and airy open space makes an ideal blank canvas for exhibitions by some of the most exciting artists working in Dublin at the moment.

Kevin regularly works with new and emerging artists, as well as some more well-known names on the Irish art scene. More recently he has collaborated with Irish curators Davey Moor, Padraic E Moore and Aoife Tunney to produce exciting group exhibitions that introduce new artists to the gallery.

This is a commercial gallery that is open, inviting and constantly innovating, giving a much needed platform to Irish artists to show work in the city. Visit here at any time of the year and you will be guaranteed to get an insight into what is happening on the Irish art scene, presented and displayed to the highest standard as ever.

Connect Four: Dublin Art

Basic Space

While insisting they are not a collective, this group of six young graduates have each given themselves the title of Director of Basic Space. They share the running of this creative enterprise, and they are not afraid of the hard work that is needed to make it happen.

Their new space on Marrowbone Lane in Dublin’s Pimlico is all glass and concrete, a new build that was intended to spend its life as a Spar or Centra outlet, but instead has been converted into a huge open plan studio and adjoining hybrid space that is used as a workshop and sometimes a gallery for the work of studio members and other emerging artists.

To find out if there is an exhibition on it might be necessary to 
check their website, but if there is, the trip will be worthwhile. Basic Space provide the cheapest studio space in the city to artists who can pull their weight and get behind the concept of this non-collective; that is, make good art work, collaborate, share and innovate. The whole enterprise is completely non-commercial and a true example of a community of artists who are making things happen for themselves.