10 talking points from the visual art world in 2021

1. Rembrandt at the Crawford

The reopening of the country’s art galleries this summer was a welcome relief for those long bored of watching Portrait Artist of the Year on television. 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 survive. Fifty of the finest copies were on loan from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for the Cork exhibition.

  • Rembrandt in Print continues until January 9, 2022.


2. Basic income for artists

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

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

Welcome and just as it will be to those who can benefit from it, there are other initiatives which should surely 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 surely 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 Percentage for Art program, which should see a percentage of public development project funding used to commission new art projects. Unfortunately, the diet is rarely used today.

As we can imagine, more welcome would be a housing program that encourages artists to continue living in urban centers. The Borough of Barking and Dagenham has handled this 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 spaces has been underscored by artist and musician Eileen Healy’s Lay a Brick project.

Healy is hoping the sale of her studio’s work will help her buy a home in the city, rather than continue to depend on the leased space.

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


4. Growing street art in Cork

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

The importance of artists in our urban centers has been underlined by the Ardú street art project in Cork. With much of the city’s arts activities being canceled or postponed, or moving online, Ardú – which means Rise – kicked off in October 2020. The theme for the 100th anniversary of the Cork Fire was chosen, by commissioning seven artists to paint new murals in the city center.

The work was completed by Deirdre Breen in Wandesford Quay, Maser in The Kino, James Earley in Henry Street, Peter Martin in Kyle Street, Shane O’Driscoll in Harley Street, Aches in Anglesea Street and Gareth Joyce in Liberty Street. Four more murals were completed in 2021, by Conor Harrington at 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 (NFT)

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 taken by surprise by the advent of the non-fungible token. NFTs are unique digital files traded in Ethereum cryptocurrency, using blockchain technology to provide proof of ownership.

Their existence became a famous cause in March, when American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, working under the name BEEPLE, sold an NFT called EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS for $ 69,346,250 million. The artwork – a collage of digital images that BEEPLE had created over 13 and a half years – was the first purely digital artwork to ever auction at Christie’s.

NFTs may well turn out to be a fad, but their current popularity among cryptocurrency investors – like Vignesh Sundaresan, who bought BEEPLE’s EVERYDAYS – has seen them reach the kind of prices most artists can only dream of. . Irish digital artist Kevin Abosch was one of those who stepped into the action, claiming he sold NFTS for € 1million in 2021. Abosch has the form: in 2015 he sold one of the 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 at the age of 85 in 1957, Jack B Yeats’ reputation as one of Ireland’s best-loved – and most profitable – artists 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 more than forty years of his career. It continues until February 6, 2022.

Yeats’ Shouting, a 1950 oil painting, went up for auction at Whyte’s in Dublin on November 29. It was to fetch at least € 2million, which would have made it the most expensive piece of art ever sold in Ireland. As it stands, he grossed 1.4 million euros, matching the price previously paid for his paintings Rêverie, 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 the allocation of € 1 million 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 included work by Alice Maher, Nigel Rolfe and Amanda Coogan.



8. Elections in Aosdana

Amanda Coogan.
Amanda Coogan.

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

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

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

Coogan’s accomplishments include his participation in the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2003 and the solo exhibition “I Will Sing You A Song From All Over 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 discussed art projects of 2021 was The Map by Alice Maher and Rachel Fallon.

Invited by Maeliosa Boyle, curator of Dublin Red Rua Art Space, to respond to Mary Magdalene’s legacy, Maher and Fallon spent over two years sewing, knitting and crocheting a piece of textile art monumental that uses the language of cartography to reimagine the life of the Madeleine and celebrate the invisible work of women, at home and abroad.

Maher and Fallon are multimedia artists, whose common interests include feminism and mythology. The exhibition is rounded off 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 form of ideas

  Seán Scully.
Seán Scully.

Seán Scully is an artist with a keen sense of the monumental, whose huge abstract canvases 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 Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, which ended in October.

Scully, born in Dublin in 1945, has spent most of his adult life in New York City, although he has now settled in the south of France. He is best known for the use of stripes and color blocks in his abstract paintings, but he also works in pastels, watercolors, printmaking, and sculpture. The Form 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.



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