These are anxious days for the seventeen artists who have been nominated for membership of Aosdána at their General Assembly in April; although there are only five vacancies in all disciplines this year. Of the seventeen, only five are in the Visual Arts category and they are Rita Duffy, Shane Cullen, Stephen Lawlor, Isabel Nolan and Tim O’Neill. All of these have stood for membership before although Rita Duffy did not contend last year – probably being too busy with her new exhibition at the Hunt Museum Oct/Nov 2017 (see the Irish Arts Review Autumn 2017).
Last year the Visual Artists polled well with the election of Niamh O’Malley, Anne Tallentire, Eddie Kennedy and the film maker Trish McAdam. The ‘visuals’ thus scored four out of the seven vacancies. This year looks strong in ‘literature’ with Mike McCormack and John McKenna contending again. The visual arts will be lucky to get two elected this year.
The good news about the nomination for election to Aosdána membership is that the AC appears to have delayed its plan to make some nominations itself. Certainly there is no mention of it this year which will obviously improve the mood of the annual Assembly compared to last year.
Many people believe that all Aosdána members are in receipt of the Cnuas, but this is not so. The Cnuas is paid only to about half the Aosdána members who have to show their total annual income is not more than one-and-a-half times the value of the Cnuas. That limit will soon be increased to €30,000 per annum.
Finally there is room to elect one more Saoi if the members feel like it. The current membership is made up of six ‘wise ones’ Seóirs e Bodley, George Morrison, Tom Murphy, Edna O’Brien, Camille Souter and Imogen Stuart. But it seems unlikely that there will be an election for an additional Saoi this year.
John Mulcahy is editor of the Irish Arts Review