Friday, December 12, 2008

Art in Cork

Yes, it exists. On my trip to the Southern Capital last week, I paid a visit to the Glucksmann Gallery. This lies in the grounds of University College Course, in an imposing neo-brutalist edifice that somehow manages to look closed even when it is open. There was some great stuff inside. The exhibit of artworks relating to the Irish troubles was interesting, with Robert Ballagh's picture of the Miami Showband* (a photograph of the band overlaid with glass made to look like bullets have been fired into it) being eerily evocative of one of Northern Ireland's more unpleasant events. Another impressive piece is the much older Men of the West by Sean Keating, a picture from the early 20th century of some men from the West of Ireland who are clearly ready to answer Ireland's call. Sean Keating (an associate of William Orpen) is a fascinating artist, kind of like an Irish Socialist Realist in the iconic and propagandistic nature of his work. Another great work by him is Men of the South (veterans of the war of independence pose heroically shortly thereafter) and The Dockers, with the latter visible to Dublin readers in the Hugh Lane Gallery.

It was the foreign art, unrelated to the Troubles, that ultimately proved the most memorable.. One favourite was this video installation by Carey Young where the artist, dressed in a smart suit, went to Speakers Corner and delivered a well-prepared speech on public speaking techniques, while around her people milled around and various nutters ranted away about stuff in an over-excitable manner.

Another piece of complete genius was the Mao-Hope march, a film recording of a march through New York by some Öyvind Fahlström fellow in the late 1960s. They were carrying giant photographs of Bob Hope and Mao Tse-Tung, and asking passers by if they were happy. The responses they received can be read here (that's also the image source). I particularly liked the guy who thought that it was a sign that Bob Hope was going to become US president, or the various people who got very defensive when asked whether they were happy.

*younger readers may not heard of these fellows. They were one of those showbands you hear about, and their career was cut tragically short by the Ulster Volunteer Force, who stopped their van and massacred them in the mid-1970s.


kvlol said...

Fantastic museum! Cork is home to some of my favourite museums: The Glucksmann for the space and location; the Crawford Municipal in the city center is wonerful (the interior is just fantastic. large new area opened, haven't seen enough there to judge) and the wonderful Cork Museum on the Mardyke with it's brilliant light up display from God knows when.

The exhibition you went to, is this permanent or will it be gone in the new year? Fancy going to the Finnish exhibition in the National Gallery some lunchtime?

ian said...

I think it's all temporary exhibits in the Glucksmann. But how temporary?

The Finnish thing sounds good. Is this free or not? If it's not free going at the weekend might be better.