Movie star Jeremy Irons this week launches a colourful book detailing the mammoth collection of public art which has been donated to Cork University Hospital over two decades.
The CUH art collection began some 20 years ago when acclaimed Sherkin Island-based artist Majella O’Neill-Collins donated some of her paintings to the hospital, and encouraged other artists to do the same.
“My brother Ronan had been in a serious accident and spent some three months in CUH,” she recalls, adding that during her regular visits to his bedside, she was struck by the lack of art on the walls of the hospital.
“The walls were blank, and I felt I should put something on the walls.
“Over the years, I have regularly asked people to donate pieces of art to the hospital and nobody has ever refused.
“It was the generosity of the artists which have brought this collection to what it is today.”
The collection has now become “what is probably the largest public art collection in Ireland”.
Currently, there are about 280 works of art displayed throughout the hospital.
However, the full collection also includes around
60 more pieces which were recently donated, bringing the overall total of artworks to more than 300.
Of these, 185 are carefully detailed in a full-colour 128-page hardback catalogue, The Collection.
The volume, which will be on sale for €49 online, will be launched on Thursday at CUH by Oscar-winning film star Jeremy Irons, who lives in West Cork.
Specialised digital archivists were engaged to photograph the works of art.
The artworks range from the contemporary art of William Crozier to the sculptures of Cecily Brennan, the healing garden of Cork University Maternity Hospital donated by Michael Flatley and Joy Gerard’s Flow installation.
The collection was launched in 1998 by then-President Mary McAleese, when it numbered some 70 pieces.
“People have continued to donate art, and we now have a very high-quality art collection,” said CUH Group CEO Tony McNamara.
He explained that the idea of a book detailing 185 pieces from the overall collection originated in the hospital’s voluntary nine-member art committee, which has maintained and preserved the collection over the years.
“The art committee has been working on that catalogue for three years now,” he said.
“It is a comprehensive and beautifully produced book, which chronicles the story of the collection and gives detailed information about the different works of art.”
Second and third editions of the catalogue are expected to be published in the coming years as the collection continues to grow.
“The collection is all voluntary,” said Mr McNamara. “It is important that this artistic endeavour is fostered and supported.
“We are thrilled and grateful that Mr Irons is taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to launch this catalogue and lend his support to the art committee in the hospital.
“People have given their time to the creation of these pieces of art, which they then donate to us free of charge, and I would like to expressly thank the donating artists and to say we would love to see this ethos continue.”
The collection, Ms O’Neill-Collins pointed out, is a unique gift to the Irish public.
“It is a gift, it is unique, and it will always be there for the people in the years to come.”