IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art


Marguerite O’Molloy: Installing One Foot in the Real World

I am really honoured to have the enviable job of curating the forthcoming exhibition from the IMMA collection. Someone once asked me if curating from the collection was like being a kid in a sweetshop; in some ways it is. You are spoilt for choice with over three and a half thousand works to select from; but that number does not reflect the variety and complexity of the works. So where to start?

The idea for the exhibition One Foot in the Real World developed over some time, I was looking at themes thrown up by the temporary exhibitions that we are going to be showing come our major relaunch in October. What piqued my interest was Eileen Gray’s fascination with transformation; Leonora Carrington’s depictions of surreal domestic interiors and Klara Liden’s subversion of public space.


I started to plan an exhibition which was an exploration of scale and the body and the psychology of space and included lots of basic everyday objects – like tables, doors, windows, keyholes, bricks and mortar!

I was particularly excited that we were building a large brick structure to house Mark Manders Reduced Summer Garden Night Scene, 2002. Manders had made a number of versions of this night-time landscape, and this version was shown twice previously at IMMA – first in Mark’s solo show Parallel Occurrence accompanied by a gorgeous full colour catalogue and again in I’m always touched by your Presence Dear.


Mark Manders, Reduced Summer Garden Night Scene (Reduced to 88%), 2002 installed at IMMA in 2007. Photo Denis Mortell © the artist and IMMA

I had never directly worked on installing this work, so during my research I needed to do a bit of digging to find out how the piece was constructed. The practicalities of making installations or demanding sculpture had always been a hook for me as a curator; I love seeing first-hand the lengths artists go to in order to create unique experiences.

My interest was piqued by this installation shot at Documenta in Kassel in 2002 where the piece was first installed.

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Mark Manders, Reduced Summer Garden Night Scene (Reduced to 88%), 2002
Sand, porcelain, wood, iron, cat-skin, rope, glass, 202 x 470 x 200 cm. Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Purchase, 2005. Courtesy: Zeno X Gallery Antwerp, photographer: Geert Goiris

I noticed the walls housing the piece were originally brick. It could also be installed with plain plastered walls, which was how IMMA had done it to date, but for me in the context of this particular group exhibition the brick was important – it changed the palette of the work, and added lines of perspective. It also created a very different psychological impact in the space.

Brick was definitely a more complex option and involved a lot more work and planning – building a brick wall was not a difficult thing in itself, but building a brick wall using wet mortar in a museum environment was!


We were very fortunate to have generous support in the supply of materials and labour from Quinn-lite who manufactured the aircrete blocks that the artist specified for the piece. A team of bricklayers built the wall working to a very exact measurement of 2010mm wide for the glass wall at either end of the enclosed landscape.

They were allowed a variance of 3mm each side.


A credit to them, it’s a very tight fit!


Art-handling know how, a pocket is hung just below the drill point to catch any falling dust. Crew use laser to get the measurement bang-on.


Our colleagues at National Gallery Ireland kindly lent suction grips for lifting the glass into place.


Basic doorstops hold the glass in its final position

The work was carefully planned to take place before any other artworks were installed in the area, as the risk from dust and moisture was significant. The newly laid floor and freshly painted walls were wrapped to avoid any marks from cement. Dehumidifiers were on max to help reduce the moisture content in the air too.


The landscape part of the sculpture was made from 4 distinct pieces which slot together; these are crated for transport and storage, and the glass sheets that frame the piece were separately crated. The installation needed to be choreographed quite precisely and its construction was theatrical at times; at one stage two of our art handlers had to limbo-dance beneath the sculpture.



During the first installation of this piece at IMMA, Manders took off his shoes and walked across the landscape to carefully position one of the freestanding objects. And now that the piece was in a national collection, we were treading more carefully having to work out a way to position objects without placing pressure on the surface of the work; but our team of art handlers loved a good challenge.


A conservation grade low suction vacuum is used to dust the surface

All of these small details disappeared in the final installation. Installing sculptures of this scale was a kind of theatre and involved a moment of alchemy that never fails to amaze.

I was thinking of installing a tiny steel keyhole by Iran do Espirito Santo on a wall next to this work, but the final positioning of works can change at the last minute if something is not working in the space.


Iran do Espírito Santo, Untitled (Keyhole), 1999, Stainless steel
8 x 3.6 x 1.8 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, Artist, 2010

At 8cm high Iran’s piece sits in the hand and can be easily moved about and held in place to try out different positions. So do make sure to check back in in October when we reopen, and see whether one of the largest works in the collection ends up next to one of the smallest.



One Foot in the Real World curated by Marguerite O’Molloy, Assistant Curator of Collections.

Opening 12 October 2013

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Neil Jordan in Conversation with Christina Kennedy

This weekend through Monday 26 August, the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival is taking place where, together with IMMA’s National Programme, Neil Jordan’s film adaptation of Beckett’s play Not I is showing daily from 10am – 6pm at the Masonic Lodge, Enniskillen.

The exhibition is accompanied by a published text of Neil Jordan in conversation with IMMA’s Head of Collections Christina Kennedy (which you can view online here!).

Jordan’s Not I is 13 minutes in duration, from multiple angles in long, complete, 13-minute takes, since the piece only reveals itself through the pressure and physical demands of the uninterrupted performance of the text. Realising that each take had its own integrity Jordan developed his original film version into a multi-screen installation in which Moore’s mouth appears on six screens arranged in a circular configuration.

Jordan describes the process: “We had these enormous two-thousand foot film rolls and we filmed Julianne from different perspectives. They all were a different record of the same event…each angle was also the complete version…If I could pull them all into one synch and present each angle, simultaneously, to the viewer, the multiplicity with which cinema presents the world would be accessible to the viewer in a unique manner. Artists have long engaged themselves in a dialogue with the grammar and aesthetics of cinema, but the dialogue has rarely gone the other way. And Beckett’s luminous piece could be presented in a context that was neither cinema nor theatre, but something different”.

Not I is part of a unique and ambitious project, Beckett on Film, the brain-child of Michael Colgan, Director of the Gate Theatre, in which each of Becketts’s 19 plays were committed to film in 2000-2001. Each had a different film director, charged with adapting the demands of Beckett’s plays to film while adhering to his exacting stage directions. Not I was adapted for film by Neil Jordan as part of the project and donated to IMMA in 2001.

The Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival is the world’s first annual festival to celebrate the work and influence of Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett. It takes place annually in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where Beckett spent his formative years attending Portora Royal School. Irleand’s only Island town, Enniskillen, is at the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands, amidst some of the most beautiful landscape in Europe.

The Beckett Festival consists of writers influenced by Beckett, contemporary art installations responding to Beckett’s work, classical music pieces that he loved and which influenced his own work, comedy, circus & mime as well as presentations of the author’s main plays, short plays and short prose. The programme also has a fun sports programme titled ‘Bend it like Beckett’ acknowledging Samuel Beckett’s love and skill in various sports while attending the Portora Royal School 1920-23.

Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival Website


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Seán Kissane on Leonora Carrington…and our first blog post

Welcome to our first post on the IMMA Blog!

We thought we would start the blog rolling by asking Exhibitions Curator Seán Kissane about the upcoming Leonora Carrington exhibition, The Celtic Surrealist.  We hope you enjoy!


Leonora Carrington,The House Opposite, 1945, tempera on panel

So the Leonora Carrington paintings are being picked up from their various homes around the world and will be winging their way to Dublin at the end of August. The show has been in the making for about 4 years, so it is very exciting to finally get to see them here.


Leonora Carrington, Mexico, 1944

In some ways it is a kind of home-coming.  Leonora was English, but her mother was from Westmeath, and she was fascinated by Ireland, its myths and history. Those stories constantly fed into her work, and to a non-Irish audience the references can be missed – stories that we all know like the Children of Lir or the Fianna.  It has been interesting to tell these stories to people in Mexico and the United States who know her work well. It opens up a whole other layer of meaning.  But Ireland was important to the Surrealists because of its stories and myths. Even Freud said that you couldn’t psycho-analyse the Irish, that they already lived in a dream world!

The works should be a revelation to the audience. As a young artist she trained in Florence, and a lot of her work has the level of detail and skill which we associate with the Renaissance rather than modern art. Some of her most ‘famous’ works are here, like ‘The Giantess’ which holds the record for the highest price paid at auction for her work. In fact, she held the record for the highest price paid for a living Surrealist painter!

The Giantess, 1947,Tempera on wood panel, 117x68cm,collection of Miguel Escobedo-small

The Leonora Carrington, Giantess, 1947,Tempera on wood panel, 117x68cm, Collection of Miguel Escobedo

Carrington lived for most of her life in Mexico where she was called ‘La Maestra’ and was almost a household name there. Our exhibition tries to represent some of the major events in her life: running away with Max Ernst in the late 30s; Imprisonment in a psychiatric hospital during the war; escape to New York with Peggy Guggenheim; later life in Mexico where she lived among a group of artists that Frida Kahlo called ‘Those European Bitches’ (they later became friends!).

TV and Cinema seem to be saturated with vampires and werewolves and witches at the moment. Leonora was fascinated by what she found in Mexico – the Brujos – the street witches and the thin veil which for them separated life, death and magic. Hopefully some of that magic will be found here at IMMA in September!



Leonora Carrington The Celtic Surrealist  Curated by Seán Kissane.

18 September – 26 January 2014