What’s your background?
I studied veterinary medicine in UCD. From there, I went working in the Curragh and London, before travelling to Cornwall, where I worked in the early 1990s. I was then in Dublin for 12 years, before returning to Cork with the intention of setting up my own practice.
When I was living in Cornwall, I started buying work by a seascape artist called Paul Lewin. He contacted me expressing an interest in doing a painting exhibition here and we opened an exhibition for him in Ballymaloe in the Grain Store. Before I knew it, another artist from Cornwall, Saul Cathcart, was asking me to do an exhibition for him.
At this stage, I was beginning to have doubts about the financial feasibility of setting up a veterinary practice, and I decided to dedicate myself to being a gallerist. A key moment was seven years ago when Mount Juliet contacted me — they were keen to do an outside sculptural exhibition. Later, I approached Ballymaloe to see if they would be happy for something similar to happen at Ballymaloe House.
From there, we started doing exhibitions and we opened the most recent, Ballymaloe Annual Sculptural Exhibition on June 20.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
It depends on the time of the year. Early in the year I travel to as many of the sculptors’ studios as I can, to discuss what they might have for the Ballymaloe show. Then I start locking in the list of artists, and how their work is going to be delivered to Cork and displayed. Siting the exhibition is labour intensive, and takes about five weeks in the lead up to the opening.
During the summer the focus is on highlighting the exhibition. For example, every Tuesday and Thursday night at 6pm at Ballymaloe, we give people a tour of the sculptures. Then you get to the end of August and everything has to be de-assembled and the sculpture either goes to its new home, if it has been purchased, or it goes back to the sculptor.
In the winter, we exhibit at Vue, an art fair in the RHA in Dublin. We also have a permanent exhibition in the Hayfield Manor in Cork.
Tell us about a recent project you have worked on?
The opening of the Ballymaloe exhibition was a huge success. We are so blessed in Ireland with the sculptors we have. This year, we have 33 sculptors represented. The show runs until August 31. It’s open every day from 9am to 9pm, and free of charge.
What’s your design style?
On a personal level, I like an uncomplicated and uncluttered style.
What inspires your work?
My relationships with the sculptors and buyers. Sculpture is expensive and you’re depending on a small number of people to support the gallery, so you have to take care of them.
With the artists, it’s about creating an alliance with them so when a piece is sold and they’re paying you, they say: ‘I know exactly why that fee was charged. It was well worth it.’
Your favourite trend?
When you go to the Crawford Art Gallery and the National Gallery and you see the footfall there. That’s not a recent trend, but one that has been established over decades.
What’s your most treasured possession?
My birth cert, mainly for the little box that reads ‘Cork’ under place of birth.
Your favourite artist?
The artist Patrick Scott, from Kilbrittain in Cork.
Your dream project?
Getting the story the sculptors have to tell out there, through symposiums or a book about travelling to the different studios around the country, or if I was being very ambitious, to maybe do it as a TV series.
Have you any design tips?
Bring children to look at art. If you can see art through the eyes of children, it’s more refreshing, as they haven’t been conditioned as to what they should like or dislike. We can learn a lot from them.
- Ballymaloe Sculptural Exhibition runs until August 31