Ireland’s national collection of contemporary art has been strengthened by the allocation of €1.5 million of funds for acquisitions by Minister Catherine Martin and the Department of the Arts. Divided between the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, the funds – €850,000 and €650,000 respectively – are not insubstantial, and the results are impressive, although not without one or two question marks.

The Crawford has acquired eighty works by forty artists, while twenty-four works by seventeen artists were added to IMMA’s holdings. IMMA used the funds to acquire works by established artists such as Frances Hegarty and Siobhán Hapaska, while also introducing newer aspects of Irish culture, with IADT graduate Vukašin Nedeljković using his experiences of applying for political asylum to inform his art practice. Amsterdam-based Palestinian artist Yazan Khalili is now also represented at IMMA. Works by younger artists such as Sibyl Montague, Clodagh Emoe and Aideen Barry were acquired, but there is also a video by Joan Jonas, who was born in 1936. Rachel Fallon, who campaigned for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, was another of the artists chosen. The majority of works added to the IMMA collection are by female artists.

Meanwhile, the Crawford tended to go for small groups, or pairs of works, by a wider range of artists including Amanda Coogan, John Rainey, Laura Fitzgerald, Clare Langan, Fergus Martin and Mollie Douthit. Other artists now represented by new works in the Crawford include Bernadette Kiely and Isabel Nolan, Mags Geaney, Ita Freeney and Inge Van Doorslaer.

Supporting the visual arts in Ireland through informed decision-making by curators in major museums makes sense. When an artist’s CV cites a work in a national collection, it is a vindication of achievement. When a museum adds a work to its collection, it brings income and recognition, as well as the knowledge that the work is available in perpetuity for viewing and for loan to other galleries.

Peter Murray


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