The Arts Council hopes to "reactivate" the sharing of its artworks around the country after new documents revealed more than half of its collection is in storage facilities at any one time.
In a tender issued this week, the Arts Council said it was seeking a suitably qualified service provider to carry out inventory and valuation services for its art collection.
The Arts Council began collecting works of art in 1962 and said, as primarily a lending collection, it was a "museum without walls".
But while the collection currently totals 1,104 art pieces, tender documents show that 589 artworks are in a storage facility in Dublin.
The collection is broken down into artworks currently valued at less than €5,000, of which there are 904, and artworks valued at more than €5,000, of which there are 243.
In the first category 462 are in storage, while 144 are in the Arts Council premises on Merrion Square in Dublin, and 297 are with third-party borrowers. Of those, 25 are in Dublin whereas counties like Cork, Kildare and Laois have two artworks each.
In the higher value collection, 127 are in storage in Dublin, with another 39 with the Arts Council in Merrion Square.
The remaining 77 high-value artworks are with third-party borrowers, with 24 located in Dublin. Cork has one — the same number as Luxembourg.
The collection includes paintings and sculptures and in a smaller number of cases, multi-media installations. According to the tender: "At any given time approximately 500 works are housed in rented storage awaiting request for loan, transfer to another location or conservation work. Currently, the Arts Council rents storage space from a commercial operator."
The Arts Council said Covid-19 had impacted on the ability to showcase certain artworks and defended the quantity of art pieces not on display.
"Approximately 50% of the works are out on loan at any one time and while this figure may appear low at first, it is significantly more than other similar collections elsewhere — the majority of whom would have a far greater proportion of work held in storage and much less out on display for audiences to view," a spokesperson said.
"For reference, our most recent research shows between 5%-30% of works in comparable collections are on public display at any one time on average."
The spokesperson said works from the collection are currently on long-term display in approximately 50 public locations across the country including in public hospitals, libraries, schools and colleges as well as being "actively available to be borrowed for temporary exhibitions".
"Whilst it is an aspiration to have as many works from the Arts Council on display at any given time, that must be balanced with the responsibility we have for care of the collection, especially in buildings that do not have museum standard conservation or security," the spokesperson said.
"With this in mind, as approximately 15% of the work in the collection is made up multi-media, video or installation artworks that require particular considerations in relation to how it is displayed, these can generally only go out on loan for display in an exhibition in a gallery or museum setting.
"In addition to this other works may also have specific conservational requirements that restrict the number of times that they can be exhibited each year."
The collection can be viewed at artscouncil.emuseum.com