Irish Museum of Modern Art

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Let’s talk about love

“This is an unashamedy sensual show, by turns exotic, repulsive, shocking, challenging and yet deliberately thoughtful throughout” Cristín Leach Hughes, The Sunday Times.

We are now in the final three weeks of the major exhibition What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now which ends on Sunday 7 February. Alongside the exhibition IMMA has presented an extensive programme of screenings, talks, events and live happenings to open up conversations and bring you deeper into the artists’ work. We have gathered together all the resources from the exhibition in this blog, see below, making a perfect introduction to the work, or if you have already visited, a place to delve deeper for further information.


Love is something that effects us all whether it’s relationship love, parental love or the love between friends or communities. The exhibition What We Call Love doesn’t seek to define love, rather it examines how artists have responded to love  in their work, from Surrealism to the current day. Through this lens the exhibition explores how the notion of love has evolved over the 20th century and what love means in our contemporary culture.

At time beautiful and at times challenging this exhibition explores a multitude of love’s faces, from crazy love to love unrequited. It has inspired a wide range of reactions from our visitors, not least of all inspiring a marriage proposal (to our great delight). The Exhibition draws to a close a week before the big love celebration that is St Valentine’s, so why not get in the mood for love and experience What We Call Love at IMMA before February 7th.

Visitors are advised that this exhibition contains some adult themes and explicit imagery. If you would like to know more please speak to a member of staff for further information.

Upcoming Events

There are two upcoming events taking place in the final few weeks of the exhibition. A film series in partnership with the Irish Film Institute takes place this weekend on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 January with screenings of Un Chant D’Amour (A Song of Love), Dir. Jean Genet, 1950; L’age D’or, Dir: Luis Buñuel, 1930; and Under The Skin, Dir. Jonathan Glazer, 2013. While on Thursday 4 February there is a live performance in gallery of the work of Elmgreen & Dragset, ’24/7/365′, 2009, which displays the love that can exist between two men in a direct, but no less romantic, manner.

Also just opened is the exhibition F**K IMMA, (2015-2016), by Séamus Nolan, a film, live event and archive, commissioned by IMMA as part of What We Call Love and on view in the project spaces (Ground floor, behind reception). Admission is free to Nolan’s work, and the overall exhibition carries an entry fee of €8/5.

IMMA TALKS – listen to the Love Playlist on Soundcloud


Highlights include a talk on the exhibition by curator Christine Macel, Centre Pompidou;  The Neurobiology of Love by Semir Zeki on his pioneering research on the organisation of the visual brain and his experimental enquiries into how a visual stimulus triggers an affective, emotional state, similar to our experience of beauty, desire and love; and an excerpt from the lecture by Dr Maureen Gaffney on her research into the science of emotional intelligence, human functioning and strategies for building fulfilling lives.

Curators preview of the exhibition on Youtube

Join curators Christine Macel (Centre Pompidou) and Rachael Thomas, Senior Curator: Head of Exhibitions, IMMA, as they introduce the core ideas and themes within the exhibition. The film also features a selection of vox pops around the question, ‘what does love mean to you?’

Exhibition Guide

For more detailed text on the show you can read the exhibition guide. This guide will also be provided in printed form on your visit.

Walkthrough Love 


Installation View, Louise Bourgeois and Miriam Cahn, IMMA 2015, What Call Love, from Surrealism to Now. (c) Denis Mortell Photography 2015

Over on facebook you can look through our installation shots of the exhibition. These include shots of Felix Gonzalez-Torres billboard work, “Untitled” (The New Plan), 1991, which was presented on six billboards across six sites within Dublin city centre in December. There are also documentation images of the live event Hot on the Heels of Love, a live nocturnal response to the exhibition curated by Pádraic E Moore. You can read a review of the night in District Magazine.

Love Blog Series

With this exhibition, in a first for IMMA, we commissioned a series of blogs about love as part of IMMA Talks. These online articles looked at themes that included how the tarot can help us explore the deeper meaning of love; how can we tell if our love is true or not; the power of love evidenced during the ground-breaking marriage equality referendum in Ireland and how we can keep our love alive through Skype.

What does the Tarot tell us about love? by Tarot Maven Danielle Vierling
Do I lie when I say I love you? by Dr Noel Kavanagh
Love’s majesty by Andrew Hyland
Global Love on Skype by Dr Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain

What do the critics think? 

The Sunday Times review Crazy in Love by Cristín Leach Hughes (Paywall)

Look back at RTE News preview of the exhibition including short interviews with Christine Macel and Sarah Glennie, Director, IMMA.

The Irish Times review Crazy, big, surreal thing called love by Aidan Dunne.

Review in Le Cool by Zara Hedderman


See what other visitors think by following the #WhatWeCallLove hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

New commissions in this exhibition are part of an exciting new initiative, New Art at IMMA. Proudly supported by Matheson this strand allows IMMA to continue to support this vital work through programming that recognises and nurtures new and emerging talent, new thinking and new forms of exhibition-making.

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How do bodies of lovers who are not together in the same space love?

In our fourth and final Love Blog, Dr Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain examines “notions of love over distance and meditated by technology” in her blog Global Love on Skype. 

The Love Blog series is presented as part of the exhibition What We Call Love which runs into its final three weeks, ending on 7 February 2016. Upcoming events, including a film series in partnership with the Irish Film Institute, are listed at the end of this blog.

Global Love on Skype

Attila Csörgő Make Love, 2002-2005 C-Print, 83 x 83 cm Courtesy Galerija Gregor Podnar, Berlin

Attila Csörgő, Make Love, 2002-2005, C-Print, 83 x 83 cm, Courtesy Galerija Gregor Podnar, Berlin

What we call love is shaped by a changing society – changing notions of sexuality, marriage, and increasing acceptance of same-sex couples. In this exhibition, even physical representations of love reflect different ideas about where love resides in the body – the brain, the heart, the genitals. But what effects are globalization and technology having on these collective notions and social practices of love? Are globalization and technology use making the world a smaller, more intimate place, or do they take us away from those we love?

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There are three things about love I’m certain of

In our final blog of 2015 and as part of our Love Blog series, Andrew Hyland looks back to 23 May 2015 when the ground breaking Marriage Equality Referendum received a Yes vote in his article Love’s majesty.

This is the third blog in the Love Blog series, in association with the exhibition What We Call LoveComing to you in the New Year is our fourth and final piece; Global Love on Skype, by Dr Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain

Love’s majesty

Joe Caslin mural

Joe Caslin, The Claddagh Embrace, 2015, Marriage Equality Mural, Dublin’s South Great George’s Street

There are three things about love I’m certain of.

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Living at IMMA, an insider’s view

Laurel Bradley on life as a temporary resident at IMMA “in a shifting community of artists, critics and writers who get to stay at the museum after the big iron gates swing shut”

Notes from a Fulbright Scholar and IMMA Resident

As the first Fulbright Scholar resident at IMMA, I have the privilege of living and working on the spacious grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. In my “real life,” I am Director and Curator of the Perlman Teaching Museum at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. But in a wonderful eight-month time-out, I join IMMA’s Collections Department, taking up special projects related to photography and lens-based art works. This blog post, though, will focus on life as a temporary resident in a shifting community of artists, critics and writers who get to stay at the museum after the big iron gates swing shut.

The unique Residency Programme, providing time and studio space for emerging and established professionals to experiment, work, think, and engage with the museum staff and publics, is a dynamic complement to IMMA’s exhibitions, activities and events. The programme hosts creative types from Ireland and abroad for periods of a few weeks to several months. Lodged in one of three apartments, I will be the longest resident to date when I depart May 20, 2016.  Not all “residents” actually live at the museum; a few Dublin-based artists commute to one of the eight studios, while others settle into an apartment or a bedroom in the Flanker, a communal house at the east end of the two former coach houses just across from Barry Flanagan’s giant joyous hare.


Entrance to IMMA; Studio Block under Supermoon

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Do I lie when I say I love you?

In the second of our Love Blog series, in association with the exhibition What We Call Love, Dr Noel Kavanagh asks the question Do I lie when I say I love you? Make sure to check out Noel’s nominated pop song in his concluding reflection.

Our third Love Blog, Love’s Majesty by Andrew Hyland, coming up next week.


Louise Bourgeois, Couple

Louise Bourgeois, The Couple, 2002, (Detail view), Glass, beads, fabric and steel 68 x 55.9 x 30.5 cm / 26 ¾ x 22 x 12 in, Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

For the love of Mod

As both a Mod and a philosopher who likes to talk of love, I am obsessed with lost origins. Mods are entirely engrossed in the pursuit of the ‘original’ of the species: we speculate as to who was ‘the first’, those original mods who began the style and because it is a lost origin we endlessly try to repeat what is not there. In doing so create versions of an absent form never actually made apparent. It is the differánce of mod and then perhaps modernists were always…well, post-modernists. Yet we endlessly get into arguments amongst ourselves whether something is unique, authentic and then ‘properly’ mod: the greatest complement one can be given is that someone would refer to you as a ‘proper’ mod.

It appears that I may love you (or not, as the case may be!)


Douglas Gordon, Forever two part, 2000, 2 × C-print, 43.2 × 53.3 cm / 17 × 21 in each COURTESY THE ARTIST AND UNTILTHENGALLERY, PARIS. © STUDIO LOST

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