National Gallery Historic Wings Reopen

Pictures courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland

Fans of the National Gallery of Ireland will be happy to see that the extensive refurbishment of the gallery’s Historic Wings has finally been completed.

The newly renovated areas of the gallery reopened to the public on June 15th, and it was well worth the wait. The Dargan and Milltown Wings have been transformed, with original nineteenth-century architectural features and spaces revealed in all their former glory. Impressive windows now open onto a spacious light-filled courtyard, which was created by architects Heneghan Peng to fill the space between the wings of the gallery. The new courtyard houses a dramatic sculpture, Magnus Modus, a large scale, seven metre tall, free-form sculpture by Irish designer, Joseph Walsh, commissioned by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the National Gallery of Ireland under the Per Cent for Art Scheme.

The gallery re-opened with an entirely new presentation of the permanent collection, featuring paintings by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Ruisdael, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, Monet, Gris and Picasso. The Gallery will also display its prestigious collection of Irish art with works by Daniel Maclise, Roderic O’Conor, John Lavery, William Orpen, Seán Keating, Gerard Dillon, Evie Hone, Norah McGuinness, Jack B. Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and William Scott.
One of the country’s most important and popular paintings has been restored and returned to permanent display. The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Corkman Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) returns to the Shaw Room after a seven-year hiatus.

The refurbishment was carried out by the Office of Public Works’ Project Management Services, with architects Heneghan Peng as the Design Team Leaders. The multi-million euro project began in March 2011, with the replacement of the Dargan wing roof. Work on the Milltown wing started during 2014. Up-to-date heating, fire suppression, lighting and audio systems have been installed and an energy centre, housing the mechanical and electrical plant required for the Gallery, is now concealed under a new front lawn of the Gallery’s Merrion Square entrance. This removes most of the major systems from the interior and allows for improved environmental control throughout the building.

Pictures courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland

The gallery, which was established in 1854, houses over 16,300 works of Irish and European Fine Art. During the renovations an extensive survey of the Gallery’s permanent collection was carried out. Over 150 works of art have been acquired by the gallery since it closed, and 1446 works were surveyed by the Conservation Department.
Michael Cush, Chair, Board of Governors and Guardians, National Gallery of Ireland says: “The refurbishment project has been a great success. We kept our doors open to the public throughout the lifetime of this project, and, remarkably, with over 80% of its galleries closed during that period, we attracted attendances of over 700,000 annually. We are indebted to our visitors for their patience and support throughout, to the Office of Public Works and design team, led by Heneghan Peng, and our parent Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. This project begins a vibrant new chapter in the Gallery’s future. We anticipate many visitors from Ireland and abroad to view our new presentation of the permanent collection and attend our exciting programme of exhibitions and public events.”

The National Gallery of Ireland is open 361 days a year, closing only on Good Friday, and from 24-26 December. Opening hours are subject to change, and entry to the galleries ceases 15 minutes before the Gallery closes.

Admission to the permanent collection is free. Some temporary exhibitions carry a charge, and tickets can be purchased at the Information Desks at the Millennium Wing and Merrion Square entrances. Exhibitions are free for members.

by Jennifer Reddin