Summer

Rubens

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Portrait of a bearded man, in three-quarter profile, bust-length, with a white collar and gold chains oil on oak panel, unframed 50.9×41.2cm Photo courtesy ©Christie’s images limited 2015

The decision by the Trustees of the Beit Foundation at Russborough House to despatch the most valuable part of the picture collection for auction in London may be understandable from their point of view. But it was a badly flawed decision and the intended sale should be put on hold immediately.
In 1976, Alfred Beit transferred the entire Russborough estate to the Alfred Beit Foundation as a charitable and educational trust with the object, in his own words, ‘of keeping the house and art collection intact, making it a centre for the arts and open to the public.’ It was an extraordinarily generous and exceptional bequest to the Irish people from one who owed absolutely nothing to this country. But the trustees have failed to live up to Beit’s expectations. They have not made Russborough into a ‘centre for the arts’ and they are failing to ‘keep the collection intact.’ No doubt they have performed to the best of their ability in a difficult situation but Alfred Beit must be turning in his grave.
What is particularly hard to understand is why the trustees failed to explore all other possibilities and strategies before acting so secretly in dispersing the collection against the benefactor’s wishes. After forty years under their control, Russborough is still not established on a firm financial footing and badly needs a strategic plan with all interested parties involved. Last month a conference was held in Dublin Castle on Art in the Irish Country House, during which many positive suggestions emerged including an imaginative proposal to connect Bantry House with the Crawford Gallery in Cork. And thereby hangs the germ of one idea for Russborough.
There is already a symbiotic relationship between Russborough and the National Gallery of Ireland which has been enriched enormously not just once, but twice, from the contents of the Blessington mansion. Surely there is a future for a much closer relationship between these two cultural institutions which indeed was hinted at by Desmond FitzGerald in an article in the Irish Arts Review in Winter 2005 which we reproduce on page 224. There is a lot to be learnt too from the experience of Castletown House where the State carries the burden of maintaining the house while the Castletown Foundation retains control of the contents. The trustees have wrapped themselves in a cocoon instead of seeking help from the Irish people and their government.
With this edition we are launching an Appeal to the Beit Trustees to call off, or at least
to immediately postpone, the sale of the pictures and we invite our readers to support this Appeal by registering their names online at www.irishartsreview.com. Also with this edition, Vol. 32 No. 2, we introduce sequential pagination across the four quarterly editions of the Irish Arts Review.

Featured in the Summer 2015 Online edition:

An appeal to the Beit Trustees Ahead of the scheduled auction of Old Masters from Russborough, John Mulcahy makes an appeal to the Trustees; William Laffan and Kevin Mulligan voice their concerns; and a decade on, Irish Arts Review reprints Desmond FitzGerald’s thoughts on the future of Russborough
The heritage of Apelles As Geraldine O’Neill is named this year’s recipient of the Ireland-U.S. Council/Irish Arts Review Portraiture Award, Robert Ballagh debates the significance of this time-honoured genre
Taking in the big picture International competition wins offer Irish architects dazzling opportunities, but what of the pitfalls, asks John McLaughlin; Frank McDonald reports on the London Festival of Architecture and planning refusal for Grafton Architects

Also in the Summer 2015 Edition of the Irish Arts Review (Subscribe here):

Perspectives of Europe Brian Fallon previews Stephen McKenna’s major exhibition at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane this summer covering the period from 1980 to the present
Mastering the elements Mark Ewart is impressed with Imelda Kilbane’s solo exhibition debut, whose work, inspired by the drama of Connemara coastline, is on view at the Claremorris Gallery in Mayo
Silent Testimony Brian McAvera examines a new series of portraits by Colin Davidson that brings into sharp focus the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict
Performance Art Eilis O’Brien previews a solo show at Gormley’s Fine Art, Belfast, by sculptor Eamonn Ceannt whose work is in the collections at UCD and Blarney Castle
With God’s assistance Michael O’Neill pays tribute to the extraordinary efforts of the protagonists in the Pakenham-Guinness Restoration of St Patrick’s Cathedral 1845-1865
Miller’s Crossing‘I have always liked to put myself in situations that I have to paint my way out of’, Nick Miller tells Brian McAvera ahead of his exhibition at IMMA in November
From assimilation to distillation Seán Kissane explores the poignant legacy of sculptor Gerda Frömel, whose retrospective at IMMA continues until July and then travels to the FE McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge
Living in good faith Éimear O’Connor charts the career trajectory of Margaret Irwin-West, one of Ireland’s grande dames of art whose dedication to her work is widely admired
Steal Away Award-winning photographer Michael Nolan catches the pulse of the summer festival, writes Stephanie McBride
Decoding James Barry Philip McEvansoneya visits the Royal Society of Arts in London to view James Barry’s mural scheme, the subject of William L Pressly’s magisterial new study
An Unsung Hero: Jaspar Robert Joly Pat Donlon remembers the bibliophile whose private collection provided the intellectual seed capital for the National Library in 1877
Divine light: a century of stained-glass Vera Ryan presents new research on the stained-glass studio of James Watson & Company whose archive was recently acquired by the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork
Treasure Island The Bryce family home on Garinish Island, Co Cork opens to the public this summer as a showcase for their art collection, writes Karol Mullaney-Dignam
Dromana, County Waterford Strategically situated above the River Blackwater, Dromana in County Waterford played witness to dramatic episodes from blackmail to elopements as recalled by Robert O’Byrne
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