Irish Art Now: From the Poetic to the Political

  • Irish Art Now, installation view, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 2000.

  • Irish Art Now, installation view, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 2000.

  • Irish Art Now, installation view, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 2000.

  • Irish Art Now, installation view, Chicago Cultural Center, 2001.

  • Irish Art Now, installation view, Chicago Cultural Center, 2001.

  • Irish Art Now, installation view, Chicago Cultural Center, 2001.

Curated by Declan McGonagle

Reflecting the seismic changes in Ireland’s political, social, economic, and cultural realities of the 1990s, contemporary Irish artists have begun to redefine traditional identities, raising questions about the relationships between female and male, urban and rural, North and South, history and the present. This struggle over identities that previously marginalized Ireland and societies like it has now become central to current cultural debates around the globe.

From the Poetic to the Political presents a reading of Irish art of the nineties and examines the repositioning of Irish identity in works drawn primarily from the collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, which itself opened in 1991. The exhibition brings together works by emerging and more established artists, who live and work in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland or abroad. Their questioning voices have initiated a dialogue within their society and contexts beyond Ireland, employing painting, photography, sculpture, video, and installation to explore subjects ranging from the personal and poetic to the political. They share a basic understanding that the language they use cannot be regarded as an innocent carrier of meaning but must be seen as an integral part of their subject. These concerns – and the way they are conveyed through new interpretations on conventional mediums as well as nontraditional materials – link these works to new art being made elsewhere in the world.


Accompanying this exhibition is the catalogue Irish Art Now: From the Poetic to the Political, edited by Kim Levin, Declan McGonagle, and Fintan O’Toole, and co-published by Independent Curators International (ICI) and Merrell Holberton Publishers, London, in association with the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Please visit our shop for more information.



Declan McGonagle

Declan McGonagle has been Director of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, since 2008. Prior to that he directed Interface Research Centre at University of Ulster, (2004 – 2008), dealing with issues of art, design, context and contested space. He set up and directed the Civil Arts Inquiry at City Arts Centre, Dublin, from (2001 – 2004), and was the founding Director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, (1991 – 2001) following periods as Director of the Orchard Gallery in Derry and Director of Exhibitions at the ICA in London from 1978 – 1990.

McGonagle served as Chair and then a board member of the Liverpool Biennial (2001 – 2009), and directed A New Necessity, the First Tyne International in Gateshead/Newcastle in 1990 – 1991. He has served on several State advisory bodies in Ireland and was shortlisted for the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize (1987) as well as serving on the jury (1993). He has also sat on the juries for the Jerwood Painting Prize, London (2001) and the first Artes Mundi Artist’s Award, Cardiff, (2002). He was Ireland Commissioner for the 1993 Venice Biennale and the 1994 São Paulo Biennale and served as a member of the Selection Committee for the British Council for the 2009 Venice Biennale. He has also served on the Broadcasting Council of Northern Ireland and the Healing Through Remembering project in Belfast.

He is a Contributing Editor of Artforum, New York, and a member of the International Advisory Panel of Engage, London, and is a former Board member of Derry/Londonderry – UK City of Culture 2013. He writes, lectures and publishes regularly on art, museum and gallery policy issues, and curates exhibitions with a focus on the relationship between art, artists and society.


touring schedule

Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago, IL, United States
July 14, 2001 - September 23, 2001

Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador
St. John's, Canada
January 30, 2000 - April 9, 2000

McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA, United States
October 3, 1999 - December 12, 1999

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
September 4, 1998 - November 1, 1998

NEW YORK, NY 10013
T: +1 212 254 8200 F: +1 212 477 4781
E: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)