The Best of Decades: Painting and Sculpture of the 1960s from the Collection

Patrick Scott, Big Solar Device, 1964 © The Estate of Patrick Scott

  • Exhibitions

14 June 2016 - 11 September 2016

Patrick Scott, Big Solar Device, 1964 © The Estate of Patrick Scott

Patrick Scott, William Scott, Josef Albers, Sean McSweeney, Noel Sheridan, Cecil King, Jean Cortot, Gerard Dillon, Nano Reid, Elizabeth Rivers, Henri Hayden, Sidney Nolan, Camille Souter, David Winters, Ian Stuart, Patrick Collins, Edward Delaney, Gerda J Frömel, Barrie Cooke, Paul Mosse, Brian Wall, Brian O’Doherty, Louis Le Brocquy, Brian Bourke.

This exhibition, drawn from the Gallery’s collection, highlights the vitality of the Irish art scene in the 1960s. Ireland began to benefit from a period of relative affluence with a significant decline in emigration in comparison to the 1950s – hence the title of Fergal Tobin’s account of the period, The Best of Decades. While not a conclusive visual history, this exhibition includes many key figures and works which reflect the debates on international artistic developments – for example, American abstract expressionist painting – and their influences on contemporary Irish art.

New artists’ organisations were established including Graphic Studio Dublin, Independent Artists, Group 65 and the New Artists Group. As a response to the changing times, in 1964 the Irish Exhibition of Living Art initiated the Carroll’s Prize for young artists. New venues opened such as the Exhibition Hall at Trinity College and Project Arts Centre, which began as a three week festival at the Gate Theatre in 1966. The Arts Council of Ireland founded a collection of contemporary Irish art and actively promoted touring exhibitions.

Many of the works in this exhibition were presented by the Contemporary Irish Art Society, which was one initiative that sought to provide greater support for artists, who continued to face economic challenges. The Society was established in 1962 to develop artistic patronage and its members purchased many works for The Hugh Lane (then known as the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art). Until 1991 when the Irish Museum of Modern Art was established, this was the sole national collection of modern art in Ireland. However it did not have a purchasing budget until 1969, when Dublin Corporation (now Dublin City Council) contributed to the cost of Joseph Albers’ Homage to the Square – Aglow, which was presented by the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland. Throughout the 1960s under the leadership of the former curators of the gallery, James White (1961-64) followed by Ethna Waldron (1965-90), The Hugh Lane was re-invigorated with ambitious international exhibitions and education programmes.

Abroad, Irish artists exhibited at international venues such as the Guggenheim Award in New York, the Paris Biennale and the Venice Biennale. The outstanding series of exhibitions of international contemporary art known as ROSC began in Dublin in 1967. The decade culminated in significant travelling exhibitions of Irish art overseas including Modern Irish Painting which toured Scandinavia, Germany and England from 1969 to 1971, and The Irish Imagination 1959-1971, curated by Brian O’Doherty and shown as part of ROSC ‘71 before touring the United States.

Paul Mosse, Study (Red / White), 1968 © The Artist

Camille Souter, Waiting To Go On The Canal, 1968 © The Artist

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Close Elizabeth Magill 2000