Christina Kennedy, the Senior Curator: Head of Collections at IMMA, writes for RTÉ Culture about the Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA collection for 2017.
The Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), now in its second year, is an exciting initiative that engages with contemporary art in Ireland by vitally assisting the development of the National Collection of Contemporary Art.

Artist Mairead McClean, pictured with her work at IMMA

To date, the fund has enabled IMMA to acquire eight new works by eight artists not previously represented in the National Collection. Artists must be Irish or based in Ireland and be at a signal moment of achievement in their careers with works that are innovative and give us new ways of thinking about the world we live in, about our culture and ourselves.

Thanks to the Hennessy Art Fund, IMMA has been able to add the works of Kevin Atherton, David Beattie, Rhona Byrne, Mark Garry, Mairead McClean, Dennis McNulty, Ciaran Murphy and Yuri Pattison. This assistance has been particularly welcome in light of the dearth of state funding in recent years for acquisitions. The fund supports national commitment to, and pride in, the growth of Ireland’s visual arts culture and the importance of placing significant new art in the public realm.

From Ciarán Murphy’s ‘L-2’(2013)

It is vital that IMMA is in a position to collect the work that is happening now, defining our present and reflecting the extraordinary depth of contemporary visual art currently being produced in Ireland. This is what gives IMMA its personality and its distinction in the spectrum of national art collections worldwide. The artworks that come into the collection create new dialogues for us to view and understand our world right now, but also to provide context for future generations to gain perspective on the history of our society and culture.

It was with great interest and enthusiasm that I approached working with this year’s Hennessy Art Fund. To begin with, the huge number of Irish artists working to a very high standard both nationally and internationally was noticeable. This number had to be reduced to four artists whose work would then be presented before the public. This was a mammoth task for the panel; IMMA Director Sarah Glennie, myself, Christina Kennedy
Senior Curator and Head of Collections, and invited Curator Linda Shevlin. The process began many months before the announcement and reveal of the artists and their pieces.

From 'No More' (2013) by Mairead McClean

There is a relevance to current international trends within the 2017 selection. All of the artists exhibit internationally, and each has strong international gallery representation. Chosen artist Yuri Pattison being represented by mother’s tankstation, Dublin and Labor, Mexico; Ciarán Murphy being represented by the Grimm Gallery, Amsterdam; Mark Garry, the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin and No More (2013) having won the MAC Award in Belfast.

The four new works are presented in a dedicated exhibition at IMMA until November. There is a strong and obvious association to film, music, sound, choreography and the immersive experience among the works, all of which tends to create a connection and emotional response to the pieces, and the works each appear to link the past, present and the future, carrying the viewer naturally from room to room.

Ciarán Murphy, pictured with his work at IMMA

From room one, the abstract painting of Ciarán Murphy lets the mind drift into abstract thought with the layer upon layer of paint washed onto the canvas. McClean’s childhood letters which were written to her father while he was interned in Long Kesh, create an emotional response from the viewer and lay the scene for her video work, No More (2013) with its striking sound and movement.

Work by Yuri Pattison at IMMA

From this, the viewer is lead into room 3 and the work of Yuri Pattison where stillness and thought again is provoked as Pattison examines digital economies and communal work spaces which have been prevalent over the last decade. Many visitors become entranced by the projection of the classic Eames chair and
spend much time with the work - until the chair finally dissolves unexpectedly into the citrus dust sheet on the ground.

From 'North of the West' (2017) by Mark Garry

Finally the viewer finishes in room 4 with the work of Mark Garry, where we become enthralled by the power of the ocean in his work, North of the West (2017) which links his childhood relationship with the Christian faith in Ireland through the filming of the immense and terrifying elements of the sea filmed at Mullaghmore Peninsula, County Sligo.

The Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA Collection 2017 is on display at IMMA’s East Ground Courtyard Gallery until November 26th , 2017. Entrance is free of charge - more details here.