Crawford and IMMA galleries reveal details of 'unprecedented' €1m spend on new art

Galleries combine to purchase 400 pieces by 70 contemporary artists in hugely significant boost to the national collection. Twenty-three Cork artists included in the acquisitions 
Crawford and IMMA galleries reveal details of 'unprecedented' €1m spend on new art

Mary McCarthy, director Crawford Art Gallery, with artists Tom Climent and Debbie Godsell. Both artists have had pieces purchased by the gallery in a major series of acquisitions. In the foreground is a sculpture by Michael Quane, another piece that has been acquired by the Crawford.  Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Details have been unveiled today (Wednesday) of a hugely-significant series of acquisitions by two of Ireland's major art galleries. The Crawford Art Gallery in Cork and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Dublin have spent €1m between them over the past six months, collaborating in the purchase of more than 400 pieces by 70 artists.

The funds had been allocated to the galleries in October 2020 by Minister Catherine Martin, and the subsequent acquisitions represent one of the most significant bulk additions to the National Collection since the founding of the state.

The galleries have bought already-existing artworks by artists living and/or working in Ireland, so as well as beefing up contemporary content in the collection, the money represents a welcome injection for a visual arts sector badly affected by Covid lockdowns.

Of the 70 artists whose work has been purchased, 23 of them were from Cork. IMMA has bought work by Marie Brett and Leanne McDonagh, while the Crawford used much of its €400,000 allocation to acquire pieces by 21 artists from the Rebel County.

Among the acquisitions was a piece by rising star Tom Climent, who spoke of his gratitude to be included at a time when he hasn't been able to exhibit his work.

“It is not just the monetary income but the recognition and affirmation in my work that is hugely encouraging. Having a painting on public display means it lives on and hopefully reaches so many more people,” said Climent.

The Crawford has also acquired a piece by Skibbereen-based Sara Baume that has become a familiar sight on the wall of the National Sculpture Factory on Albert Road, Cork, over the past few months. Rendered in red neon tubing, it bears a particularly apt message for the current times: “So sick and tired of parsimony, we long for debauchery.” 

 Sara Baume with her artwork, 'So sick and tired', which has also been acquired by the Crawford. It is currently on the exterior wall of the National Sculpture Factory in Cork. Picture: Jed Niezgoda
Sara Baume with her artwork, 'So sick and tired', which has also been acquired by the Crawford. It is currently on the exterior wall of the National Sculpture Factory in Cork. Picture: Jed Niezgoda

Of the non-Cork artists the Crawford has engaged with for the purchases, among the most significant is New York-based Katie Holten. The Dublin-born artist's 'Irish Tree Alphabet' comprises 29 pencil drawings in which images of trees evoke medieval Ogham letters.

As well as the environment, issues such as gender and diversity have been to the fore in the Irish arts world in recent times, and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has provided information that of the 70 artists involved in the acquisitions, 45 are female and 20 are male, with five being non-binary or LGBTQ+.

Crawford director Mary McCarthy spoke of the fruitful collaboration with her Dublin-based counterparts at IMMA, adding: “These artworks join our  family of art works acquired over 200 years, it's an unprecedented and exceptional moment. We take this guardianship and advocacy role seriously so will try and ensure those works will have many outings both in Cork and elsewhere in the future. It is a public demonstration of confidence in artists, Crawford Art Gallery and IMMA.” 

Minister Catherine Martin acknowledged what a challenging year it has been for the artistic community, saying: “I look forward to see how IMMA and the Crawford Art Gallery will share these new additions nationally and internationally where they can be widely viewed by the public and act as a reservoir for future enjoyment, inspiration and research.” 

 A selection of the artworks just added to the collection will be exhibited at Crawford in July.

Full List of Artists

 Crawford Art Gallery 

  • Aideen Barry
  •  Sara Baume
  •  Stephen Brandes 
  • Angela Burchill
  •  Declan Byrne 
  • Elaine Byrne
  •  Tom Climent 
  • Yvonne Condon
  •  Elizabeth Cope
  •  Gary Coyle 
  • Stephen Doyle
  •  Rita Duffy 
  • Amanda Dunsmore 
  • Kevin Gaffney 
  • Debbie Godsell 
  • Michael Hanna 
  • Marie Holohan 
  • Katie Holten
  •  Brianna Hurley 
  • Andrew Kearney 
  • John Keating 
  • Fiona Kelly 
  • Anne Kiely & Mary Palmer
  •  Roseanne Lynch
  •  Brian Maguire 
  • Evgeniya Martirosyan 
  • Danny McCarthy 
  • Roseleen Moore
  •  Peter Nash 
  • Ailbhe Ní Bhriain
  •  Íde Ní Shúilleabháin 
  • Nuala O’Donovan 
  • Sarah O’Flaherty
  •  Tom O’Sullivan 
  • Michael Quane
  •  Jennifer Trouton
  •  Charles Tyrrell 
  • Daphne Wright 


  • Bassam Al-Sabah
  •  Marie Brett
  •  Sarah Browne & Jesse Jones 
  •  Anishta Chooramun 
  • Amanda Coogan
  •  Vivienne Dick
  •  Edy Fung 
  • Emma Wolf Haugh 
  •  Patricia Hurl 
  • Sandra Johnston
  •  Eithne Jordan
  •  John Lalor 
  • Breda Lynch 
  • Alice Maher
  • Leanne McDonagh 
  •  Eoin McHugh
  •  Alastair MacLennan
  •  Sibyl Montague
  •  Maïa Nunes 
  • Brian O’Doherty 
  • Alanna O’Kelly 
  • Sarah Pierce
  •  Atoosa Pour Hosseini 
  • Alice Rekab 
  • Nigel Rolfe
  •  Dermot Seymour 
  • Rajinder Singh
  •  Anne Tallentire 
  • Cléa van der Grijn 
  •  Eimear Walshe

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