10 talking points from the visual arts world in 2021

1. Rembrandt at the Crawford

The reopening of art galleries across the country this summer has been a welcome relief for those long bored of watching Portrait Artist of the Year on TV. One of the most popular exhibitions was Rembrandt in Print, which opened at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork in September.

Rembrandt van Rijn, arguably the greatest artist of the 17th century, was himself a master portrait painter and is best known for his epic paintings such as The Night Watch. He was also a brilliant engraver and 314 of his etchings have survived. Fifty of the finest examples were loaned by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for the exhibition in Cork.

  • Rembrandt in Print continues until January 9, 2022.


2. Basic Income for Artists

Despite his enormous success as an artist, Rembrandt had what might politely be called “money management problems” and suffered the ignominy of being buried in a pauper’s grave. In recent years, many Irish artists, their incomes decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, feared they would end up the same.

In response, the government announced in October that it had earmarked €25 million for a pilot scheme for a new basic income guarantee for artists and arts workers, to be launched in spring 2022. The scheme will most likely pay approximately 2,000 creative people per year. basic income of €325 per week for three years.

Welcome and all this will be for those who can take advantage of it, there are other initiatives that should definitely be seriously considered. Prior to its demolition in 2018, the old FÁS building on Sullivan’s Quay in Cork housed affordable studios and exhibition space for artists, and there are sure to be a number of vacant buildings in the city center that could be converted. for such purposes.

There could also be a serious reassessment of the Per Cent for Art program, which should see a percentage of public funding for development projects used to commission new art projects. Unfortunately, the scheme is rarely used at present.

Again, a housing project is expected to encourage artists to continue living in urban centres. The borough of Barking and Dagenham has done just that in east London, with its A House for Artists initiative, designed to provide creative people with affordable rents.


3. Eileen Healy, Lay a Brick

In Cork, the scarcity of affordable living and studio space has been highlighted by artist and musician Eileen Healy’s Lay a Brick project.

Healy hopes the sale of his studio’s work will help him buy a house in town, rather than continuing to depend on rented spaces.

Her paintings are currently available for purchase at the Quay Co-op on Sullivan’s Quay and On the Pig’s Back in Douglas, as well as on her Facebook and Instagram accounts.


4. Ardú street art in Cork

A mural by artist Asbestos, created for Ardú 2021, in South Main Street, Cork.

The importance of artists to our urban centers has been highlighted by the Ardú street art project in Cork. While much of the city’s arts activities are canceled or postponed, or move online, Ardú – meaning Rise – kicked off in October 2020. It took the 100th anniversary of the Cork fire as its theme, by commissioning seven artists to paint new murals on the city center.

Work was carried out by Deirdre Breen at Wandesford Quay, Maser at Kino, James Earley at Henry Street, Peter Martin at Kyle Street, Shane O’Driscoll at Harley Street, Aches at Anglesea Street and Gareth Joyce at Liberty Street. Four more murals were completed in 2021, by Conor Harrington in Bishop Lucey Park, Friz on St Finbarr’s Road, Shane O’Malley on Lower Glanmire Road and Asbestos on South Main Street.


5. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

A man looks at digital paintings by American artist Beeple at a crypto art exhibition titled Virtual Niche: Have You Ever Seen Memes in the Mirror?.
A man looks at digital paintings by American artist Beeple at a crypto art exhibition titled Virtual Niche: Have You Ever Seen Memes in the Mirror?.

If the art world was slow to recognize the value of street art, it was completely surprised by the advent of the non-fungible token. NFTs are unique digital files exchanged in the Ethereum cryptocurrency, using blockchain technology to provide proof of ownership.

Their existence became a cause celebre in March, when American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, working as BEEPLE, sold an NFT called EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS for $69,346,250 million. The work – a collage of digital images that BEEPLE had created over 13½ years – was the first purely digital work of art ever to be auctioned at Christie’s.

NFTs might just turn out to be a fad, but their current popularity among cryptocurrency investors — like Vignesh Sundaresan, who bought BEEPLE’s EVERYDAYS — has seen them hit the kind of price point most artists can only dream of. . Irish digital artist Kevin Abosch was one of those to get in on the action, claiming to have sold NFTS worth €1 million in 2021. Abosch is in form: in 2015 he sold one three copies of a photographic print of a potato to a French investor, also for 1 million euros.


6. Jack B. Yeats

Jack B Yeats, circa 1925. Photograph: Chancellor, Dublin, National Gallery
Jack B Yeats, circa 1925. Photograph: Chancellor, Dublin, National Gallery

Forty-four years after his death, aged 85, in 1957, Jack B Yeats’ reputation as one of Ireland’s most beloved and bankable entertainers seems unassailable. The Painting & Memory exhibition, at the National Gallery of Ireland, was organized to coincide with the 150th anniversary of his birth and includes works from over forty years of his career. It continues until February 6, 2022.

Yeats’ Shouting, a 1950 oil work, was auctioned at Whyte’s in Dublin on November 29. It was expected to fetch at least €2 million, which would have made it the most expensive work of art ever sold in Ireland. As it stands, it fetched 1.4 million euros, the price previously paid for his paintings Reverie, in 2019, and The Whistle of a Jacket, in 2001.


7. IMMA and Crawford collect Irish artists

Mary McCarthy of the Crawford Art Gallery with artists Debbie Godsell and Tom Climent at the unveiling of some of the gallery's newly acquired pieces.
Mary McCarthy of the Crawford Art Gallery with artists Debbie Godsell and Tom Climent at the unveiling of some of the gallery’s newly acquired pieces.

Another initiative announced by the government in October 2020 was a €1 million grant to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork to collect works by Irish artists.

The galleries announced their purchases – of 400 works by 70 artists – in April this year. The Crawfords’ purchases included works by local artists Tom Climent, Sara Baume and Fiona Kelly. IMMA’s work included Alice Maher, Nigel Rolfe and Amanda Coogan.



8. Elections in Aosdána

Amanda Cogan.
Amanda Cogan.

The aforementioned Amanda Coogan is one of Ireland’s best-known sign language interpreters and was widely celebrated for her performance at the Late Late Toy Show in November, when she followed a musical interlude by DJ Calum.

Coogan was elected to Aosdána the same month, in recognition of her status as one of Ireland’s leading performance artists. Aosdána is an honorary association of artists whose members are chosen by their peers. A cnuas – or stipend – is available for those who wish to work full-time in their art.

Coogan was admitted along with sculptor Rachel Joynt and painter Diana Copperwhite, testifying to the tough health of the visual arts in Ireland.

Coogan’s achievements include his participation in the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2003 and the solo exhibition “I’ll sing you a song from the city” at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin in 2015.

9. The Map, by Alice Maher and Rachel Fallon

In Ireland, one of the most talked about art projects of 2021 was The Map by Alice Maher and Rachel Fallon.

Invited by Maeliosa Boyle, curator at Dublin art space Red Rua, to respond to the legacy of Mary Magdalene, Maher and Fallon spent more than two years sewing, knitting and crocheting a monumental textile work that uses the language of cartography to reinvent the life of the Madeleine. and celebrate the invisible work of women, at home and outside.

Maher and Fallon are multimedia artists, whose common interests include feminism and mythology. The exhibition is completed by a sound installation by writer Sinéad Gleeson and musician Stephen Shannon. The Magdalene series also features works by Jesse Jones, Grace Dyas and Amanda Coogan. The card is visible until January 29, 2022.


10. Seán Scully: The Shape of Ideas

  Sean Scully.
Sean Scully.

Seán Scully is an artist with a keen sense of the monumental, whose huge abstract paintings are part of collections around the world. His reputation as Ireland’s greatest living artist was cemented by a major retrospective, The Shape of Ideas, at the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, Texas, which ended in October.

Scully, born in Dublin in 1945, has lived in New York for most of his adult life, although he has now settled in the south of France. He is best known for using stripes and blocks of color in his abstract paintings, but also works in pastels, watercolors, printmaking and sculpture. The Shape of Ideas featured 49 of his most important paintings and 42 works on paper. The exhibition will be presented at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the spring.