Nail salon painting work of art on fingernails at National Gallery

Kelly Carpenter of Tropical Popical nail bar outside the National Gallery. Picture: Dave Meehan
Kelly Carpenter of Tropical Popical nail bar outside the National Gallery. Picture: Dave Meehan

Saoirse Ronan’s favourite nail salon will be painting works of art on to fingernails at the National Gallery of Ireland.

The gallery has reopened after a six-year refurbishment with an exhibition of Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), the Dutch artist man who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Tropical Popical, a Dublin-based nail salon that Saoirse Ronan brought to international fame on the Ellen DeGeneres TV show last year, has been asked to come into the gallery to recreate Vermeer’s artwork on to people’s nails.

“I was contacted and asked if I was interested in taking part in the opening of the exhibition,” said salon owner and art collector Andrea Horan.

Tropical Popical Nail Bar will take part in the exhibition by Johannes Vermeer, who painted ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’.
Tropical Popical Nail Bar will take part in the exhibition by Johannes Vermeer, who painted ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’.

“The girls will go down there and have a walk through with the curator, get the themes, the colours and come up with ideas.

“It will be a reaction to it as opposed to a direct copy [of the artwork],” she told the Irish Examiner.

“Then we will go back to Trop Pop and decide on five styles. All staff will be able to do them in-house [for the month of August] and then we will be doing them in the gallery in September [for one day],” she added.

As the artwork is being painted on to gallery goers nails it will also be projected live on to the wall.

The Vermeer exhibition also includes the work of other artists of his generation.

It explores the network of relationships between Vermeer and Dutch genre painters during the period of 1650 to 1675, and according to the National Gallery it, “will give visitors an insight into how Vermeer and his contemporaries admired, inspired and rivalled each other.”

Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring
Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring

Each of the five nail styles will be “salon-suitable,” explained Ms Horan, in that the artwork will not take more than one hour to do.

This is not the salon owner’s first foray into mixing works of art with nail painting.

Her staff has transferred the artwork of Bono’s niece Leah Hewson on to nails, so too have they done with Dublin artist Maser.

They have also recreated the work of Vincent van Gogh and American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein on to their customers’ nails.

“Some people come into Trop Pop and it can take up to an hour-and-a-half to do one nail,” explained Ms Horan.

“We have a power hour on Wednesdays, ‘Creative Wednesdays’, where we pick a theme or a skill and do one nail each.

“Like we picked natural stones recently and people created rose quartz and marble on a nail, or we pick the theme of fruits.

“Everything is hand drawn with polish or gel polish. We’ve always done that. It was something I was always interested in,” she added.

‘Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry,’ is the full title of the National Gallery’s new exhibition.

It opened on June 17 and will run until September 17.

The National Gallery of Ireland owns Vermeer’s Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid, which is part of the exhibition. Other works include Woman with a Balance’, Woman with a Pearl Necklace and The Geographer.


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