Irish Museum of Modern Art

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Mediator’s Voice : The Art of Conversation


The experience of art takes place between the audience and the work, and each exhibition arguably manifests itself only in the presence of the visitor, the works becoming transformed by this experience. This is particularly true of current exhibition Trove, Dorothy Cross selects from the National Collections sponsored by BNP Paribas, where Dorothy presents us with a series of objects and artworks that may appear to have no immediate connection. There are no labels, no room titles, no logical connections, leaving the visitor to discover and explore, making your own personal and sometimes strange connections between works. 

IMMA, like most art galleries, has a team of mediators that you see on every visit. Hugely knowledgeable about art in general, and each exhibition in particular, the mdiators regularly give talks and tours to the public and are an invaluable support for the visitor should you wish to chat to them, and many do. Mediators are witnesses to this very transformation, and we’ve asked one of our team, Barry Kehoe, to tell us a little about his experience of this during Trove and what questions visitors raise. We quickly find that there are so many questions….

Trove ends on sunday 8 March 2015. Admission is free. Listen to a brief introduction from IMMA Director Sarah Glennie.


It may seem like a peculiar job for some, the role of a museum invigilator.  It takes a certain kind of patience to sit in a gallery space for long hours, protecting the precious art objects from the absent minded hand of a visitor that may at any moment reach out and touch that which must not be touched.  In IMMA those of us who invigilate are called Mediators, a team comprising of artists, art historians and many other varied areas of art expertise.  The expert knowledge and experience of the gallery staff is of significant importance as we are not just there to protect the artworks we also act as a bridge or conduit to mediate between the art works and the visitors.

The Mediators facilitate talks, tours and workshops for the education programmes engaging with visitors from knee high to 90 and upwards. On occasion there are opportunities to work on exhibitions as they are being formulated and installed but more often than not we only get to see the exhibition a day or two before it opens to the public. So as we sit silently in a corner, the mediator, though at some level an informed expert, is also in many ways a visitor to the exhibition.  When an exhibition like Trove opens the mediators are as much a part of the exhibition as the objects, artefacts and artworks that have been gathered together in the gallery.  We live in the spaces along with the artworks for the duration of the exhibition and have the opportunity to contemplate the artworks, study the exhibition as a whole and observe the visitor experience first-hand, gaining many insights that only long exposure and slow viewing can achieve. This is an advantage and a luxury that most visitors to the museum cannot enjoy due to the constraints of time.

Research has shown that the average amount of time spent in front of an artwork varies from 15 to 30 seconds.  A recent article by Stephanie Rosenbloom in the New York Times titled: “The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum“, suggests one method of putting on the brakes is to take a public tour. If this is felt to be too formal there is another approach. Quite often an artwork or an exhibition demands more than just to be observed and this seems to be the case with Trove. Many visitors are prompted to spontaneously initiate conversations, expressing how they feel about a piece or to ask a question about a particular object. Simply engaging in a conversation with a mediator can often be the best way to enhance the visitor experience of the exhibition.


For example last week I found myself in deep analysis with a doctor as we puzzled over the whale skulls in the Basement Room of the Trove exhibition. We were trying to discern whether the Whale skulls from the Natural History Museum were upside down or not.  We talked about the comparative anatomy and the articulation of the vertebrae and the skull in mammalian skeletons.  Neither of us an expert in Whale biology, never the less, we were both fully committed to solving the mystery of what we were looking at.  This was a contrast to the next visitor who asked a question. A young girl of 7 or 8 had come to the exhibition with her mother.  When I warned her mother that there was a real life male nude posing in one of the adjoining rooms she decided to skip the room. However, once her daughter heard that there was something she wasn’t allowed to see she began to protest quite vocally at her mother’s imposed censorship. Very quickly it became evident there was only going to be one course of action taken.  After much protest the girl’s mother rolled her eyes and acquiesced to her daughter’s demands and they entered the room.  Shortly afterward they returned, the girl who had been very vocal was now silent with a very puzzled look on her face.  As they were leaving she turned to me and asked very directly:  “Why can we see his bum?” As I desperately searched for an appropriate answer her mother replied, shaking her head with an air of resignation and said, “There’s going to be so many questions.”


Barry Kehoe is an Independent Curator and Art Writer. He also works in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) facilitating talks, tours and workshops for the museum’s various education programmes.

He holds a BA in English and History (UCC); an MA in Drama and Theatre Studies (UCD); a higher Diploma in Arts Administration (UCD); A Certificate in Journalism (City and Guilds) ; A Certificate in Drawing and Visual Investigation (NCAD); and an MA in Visual Culture – Art in the Contemporary World (NCAD).

While also performing in the fields of Music and Fine Art Drawing Barry has written for various visual art publications including the Visual Artists Ireland – News Sheet, Art in the Contemporary World, Critical Bastards and the MART Gallery.

The featured image Reading Ulysses (2006) comes from a solo exhibition of Barry’s drawings shown in the Signal Arts Centre in Bray, Co. Wicklow in 2006.

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IMMA Announces 2015 Programme Highlights

Images: (1) Stan Douglas, Powell Street Grounds, 28 January 1912, 2008. Digital C-print mounted on Dibond aluminum. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York. (2) Karla Black, Practically in Shadow, 2013. Plaster powder, powder paint, florist foam, bath bombs, nail varnish, polythene, thread, cellophane, sellotape. Courtesy the artist.

Images: (1) Stan Douglas, Ballantyne Pier, 18 June 1935, 2008, Digital C-print mounted on Dibond aluminium, 45 x 116 inches, 114.3 x 294.6 cm, Edition of 5, Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York (2) Karla Black, Practically in Shadow, 2013. Plaster powder, powder paint, florist foam, bath bombs, nail varnish, polythene, thread, cellophane, sellotape. Courtesy the artist.

IMMA, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, is pleased to announce highlights from our 2015 exhibition programme.

In announcing details of the programme today Sarah Glennie, Director of IMMA, commented: “We are delighted to present another dynamic programme for Ireland in 2015, where a key highlight is sure to be the autumn exhibition What We Call Love, co-curated by Rachel Thomas, Head of Exhibitions at IMMA and Christine Macel, Chief Curator at Centre Pompidou. It will include works from Cecily Brown, Miriam Cahn, Elmgreen and Dragset, Jim Hodges, Jeremy Shaw and Wolfgang Tillmans among others and we are delighted to be working with the Pompidou again after our successful collaboration in 2013 with the Eileen Grey exhibition.”

“Over the course of the year we will mount the first major Irish exhibitions from internationally renowned artists Stan Douglas and Karla Black, as well as an exhibition of the work of poet, artist and writer Etel Adnan; one of the leading voices in contemporary Arab American literature since the 1960s. As part of our commitment to supporting new artists we present Chloe Dewe Mathews, a remarkable new artistic voice working in the medium of photography and Diogo Pimentão in their first Irish exhibitions, as well as a number of new commissions forming part of What We Call Love.”

“I’m delighted to be presenting a major exhibition by Grace Weir, one of Ireland’s most distinctive and important contemporary artists, and continuing our scholarly appraisal of Modern Irish Art with our forthcoming retrospective of the work of Gerda Frömel (1931 – 1975). As in 2014 our exhibition programme will be accompanied by a rich and varied programme of events, talks, and learning programmes which will provide audiences of all ages exciting opportunities to enjoy the our programme.”

IMMA Collection
There are several exhibitions throughout the year that draw from the IMMA Collection. In the spring we present Fragments, with works from Aleanna Egan, Ronan McCrea, Alan Phelan, Camille Souter, GILBERT & GEORGE, Nigel Rolfe, Marina Abramovic, Brian O’Doherty and Kenneth Hall. This will be followed in November with artist Nick Miller’s response to the Edward McGuire studio, part of the IMMA Collection, in Meetings: Into the Studio of Edward McGuire. A concurrent exhibition, Approaches to Paper, will explore the practice of celebrated Irish Modernists such as Evie Hone and Mainie Jellett to contemporary artists such as Antony Gormley, Andrew Folan and Kiki Smith.


Our new festival Summer Rising, which was such a success last year, will return in June with more art, music, performance and food events designed to open up the beautiful buildings and grounds of IMMA, day and night.

IMMA Exhibition Highlights 2015

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You are invited to experience ROADKILL. Thu 12th Feb, 6-8pm.

primal evite

IMMA is hosting ROADKILL on Thu 12th February; an evening of live performance, installation, video and music by multi-disciplinary artists, programmed in parallel to the Primal Architecture exhibition. Featuring artists Jenny Brady , Sandra Davoren, Elaine Leader, Eoghan Ryan, Smilin’ Kanker and Przem SHREM Zając the night will also mark the launch of the Primal Architecture  publication. We asked  Séamus McCormack, Project Coordinator of Exhibitions at IMMA, to tell us more about this project and how it connects with the overall exhibition.

Essentially a footnote to the Primal Architecture exhibition, ROADKILL presents alternative, opposing and contradictory explorations of instinctual and primal concerns. The project presents a diversification of propositions exploring themes of framing, duality, structure, sexuality and appropriation, and the artists involved employ devices such as collage, remix and disruption.

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Duncan Campbell’s booked out talk at IMMA :: Special offer for new and renewing members

Shot of Duncan Campbell

Duncan Campbell, winner of the 2014 Turner Prize, is speaking at IMMA on Saturday 31st January at 2pm. Duncan will be discussing his current exhibition at IMMA with Dr Maeve Connolly (Lecturer, IADT).  This free event is now booked out, but we do have a very limited number of tickets that we are making available to new (and renewing) IMMA Members.

Here’s how it works. If you join, or renew, as an IMMA member in the next 7 days you are eligible to be in the draw for these 5 pairs of tickets. You can find out how to join on our website here. Memberships start at €30, for which you’ll receive a host of other benefits including discounts in the shop and cafe and free admission to any of our ticketed exhbitions at IMMA.

Once you have joined send an email to to let us know you’d like to be in the draw. We’ll select the winners next Thursday afternoon, the 29th Jan 2015.

If you can’t make the talk on the day don’t worry, we will be recording it and we’ll make the audio available on our soundcloud page in a couple of weeks.



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Happy Christmas from IMMA


We want to wish all our visitors a very Happy Christmas and a joyous 2015.  We are closed tomorrow and we reopen on Saturday 27th of December at 12noon. You can find more details of our Christmas Opening Hours below.

Christmas Opening Hours 2014
24-26 Dec:          Closed
27-28 Dec:          Open 12noon–5.30pm
29 Dec:                Closed
30,31 Dec,1 Jan: Open12noon–5.30pm

We want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support in 2014 which was one of our busiest years to date. We look forward to welcoming even more vistors to IMMA in 2015.

We are open most days between Christmas and New Years and our current exhibitions are all free. All of the current exhbitions are open into February (some continue into March) and we will be announcing our 2015 programme early in the year.

You can find more details on each of the current exhibition by clicking on the links below.

Current Exhibitions at IMMA

>arrow link Duncan Campbell

>arrow linkPrimal Architecture Mike Kelley, Jeremy Deller, Conrad Shawcross, Kevin Atherton, Linder, Jesse Jones and Bedwyr Williams

>arrow link TROVE: Dorothy Cross selects from the National Collections. Sponsored by BNP Paribas.

>arrow linkIMMA Collection: Conversations

>arrow linkTeresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler: Sound Speed Marker.

>arrow linkMobile Encounters: Documenting the Early Years of Performance Art in Ireland

Festive good wishes from everyone at IMMA!



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