Will the new culture Minister be Innovative?

To be elected as an ordinary (there are forty of them) councillor of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in May 2014, then to be elected to Dáil Éireann in the 2016 general election and then to be appointed to the cabinet as a full Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in 2017, is an exceptionally fast progression in any politician’s career. But how, one wonders, will Josepha Madigan, for ‘tis she, be remembered after her term as Minister for the Arts? As the Taoiseach has already promised a generous series of supports for the cultural institutions over the next decade, it can be presumed that Ms Madigan will soon be releasing details of capital grants to enhance her party’s political popularity in the arts community from Ballsbridge to Ballyjamesduff. And if she allocates a few more millions directly to the Arts Council, most of the arts community will be kept happy enough. But one hopes this will not be Ms Madigan’s form. The record shows that she is a lady in a hurry and her supporters will be looking for an exceptional performance now that she has achieved high office.

WE WANT JOSEPHA TO BRING IT HOME. On loan or otherwise.

In the opinion of many, including the undersigned, Harry Clarke’s Geneva Window was the greatest work of art created in Ireland in the 20th century but, like the Elgin Marbles, the window is now exiled a long way from home. The window consists of fifteen episodes illustrating the work of fifteen early 20th-century Irish writers, namely, Padraig Pearse, Lady Gregory, GB Shaw, JM Synge, Seumus O’Sullivan, James Stephens, Seán O’Casey, Lennox Robinson, WB Yeats, Liam O’Flaherty, George ‘AE’ Russell, Padraic Colum, George Fitzmaurice, Seamus O’Kelly and James Joyce. Most significantly, these names and the short extract from their work to be illustrated in glass, were chosen by WB Yeats. Thus the whole concept for the window was conceived and executed by two of the greatest artists of the 1920s in Ireland. The unfortunate history of the so-called Geneva Window and how it ended up in the collection of the Wolfsonian-Florida International University was recounted by the late Nicola Gordon Bowe in the Irish Arts Review Spring 2013 edition.

WE WANT JOSEPHA TO BRING IT HOME. On loan or otherwise.

On page eight, we have suggested that the Geneva Window could provide a dramatic lead attraction for the reopening of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane in 2020/21. Strictly speaking this might be seen as outside the responsibility of the Minister as the Hugh Lane is a Municipal Gallery under the remit of Dublin City Council and is not designated as a National Cultural Institution (NCI). But surely with its magnificent new building at the very centre of Dublin’s new Cultural Quarter on Parnell Square, the time has come to raise the Hugh Lane to NCI status as was done for the Crawford Gallery in Cork some years ago, so that the Hugh Lane too can avail of national funding and national tax concessions on acquisitions.

Josepha Madigan could be the most innovative Minister for Culture since Michael D Higgins. And look where he is now!

John Mulcahy

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