Crawford Art Gallery first public gallery in Ireland to acquire Bob Carlos Clarke photographs

The Crawford Art Gallery in Cork has become the first public gallery in Ireland to acquire work by Bob Carlos Clarke, the renowned photographer from Kinsale who took his own life in 2006.

Three signed fine art Iris prints by Clarke will be unveiled at the gallery next year after being donated by his wife Lindsey.

“Bob was born and grew up in Cork, so I am delighted to make this donation to the people of Cork in his memory,” said Lindsey.

The three photographs, individually entitled Knife, Spoon, and Fork, are from Clarke’s 1991 series ‘Styx’ and are quite different from the nudes and celebrity portraits for which he is best known.

From Clarke’s 1991 series ‘Styx’. Picture: © The Estate of Bob Carlos Clarke

In welcoming the donation, Peter Murray, curator at the Crawford, said the gallery opted for pieces that showed the quality of Clarke’s work.

“The works we selected are very simple. He’s a very talented photographer who brings a classic sensibility to his work in terms of form, light, and shadow. I wanted work that had an abstract quality but also showed him at his best. In time, we may get some of his racier work,” said Mr Murray.

From Clarke’s 1991 series ‘Styx’. Picture: © The Estate of Bob Carlos Clarke

Those racier pieces include pictures of the likes of Dita VonTeese and Rachel Weisz, as well as a range of photographs of latex-clad models for which Clarke went beyond straightforward erotic fare by attaching such props as a shark fin and a remote control antenna.

He also did the pictures of his friend Marco Pierre White for the chef’s hugely influential White Heat book in 1990. Clarke was born in the Bons Secours hospital in Cork in 1950 and lived in Kinsale for much of his childhood. He moved to England in the early 1970s and attended Worthing College of Art where his interest in photography developed. In later years, he continued to visit Kinsale where his mother Myra and younger brother Andrew (also to meet a tragic end) lived. However, his relationship with conservative Ireland was complicated.

From Clarke’s 1991 series ‘Styx’. Picture: © The Estate of Bob Carlos Clarke

“His soul was Irish but his work was too risqué,” Lindsey explained to this newspaper earlier in the year.

“He told this story about coming home to Ireland with a box of condoms and being stopped at customs. His parents were waving and smiling at him through the glass as he was having all his condoms confiscated.”

Some of Bob Carlos Clarke’s racier works include this one of the actress Rachel Weisz. Picture: © The Estate of Bob Carlos Clarke

By the time he died at the age of 55, Clarke’s life had been blighted by depression and addiction. In the years since his death, Clarke’s reputation has endured, and the Little Black Gallery in London has worked with Lindsey and his daughter Scarlett on exhibitions.

“They really do a great job in honouring his memory,” said Mr Murray. “Bob Carlos Clarke was one of the greatest photographers and we hope this will be the start of a long relationship between the estate of Bob Carlos Clarke and Cork.”

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