Went on a tour of the Aras an Uachtaran art collection yesterday, under the auspices of the Business2Arts organisation. The tour was run by Pat Murphy who runs the Office of Public Works (OPW) art collection. This is a huge collection funded by a levying a percentage of all new development undertaken by the State - a considerable amount of money. While there are permanent exhibits in the Aras, each president gets to choose pieces from the OPW collection and so put their own personal stamp on the Aras collection.
The best came first. In the ante-room where we gathered for tea and biscuits there were 5 enormous Hughie O'Donoghue pieces - crucifixions and studies in melancholy. These were donated to the state by an American business man. They are tortured and disturbing images not at all what I expected to see in the President's house. In the main entrance hall there are pieces by Tony O'Malley, Felim Egan, Jacinta Feeney and a small exquisite le Brocquy. The Feeney piece is a multi-coloured mess and should be thrown out - the other pieces are worthy and representative of the artists.
In the breakfast room there are 3 beautiful Scully prints - including one I have in my dining room. There's also a large figurative Alice Maher painting (oil pastel I think) and a truly awful abstract piece my Maria Simonds-Gooding. In one of the state roooms there are portraits of all past presidents - the two that stand out for me are Basil Blackshaw's portrait of Mary Robinson and Sean O'Sullivan's moody piece of De Valera. Elsewhere pieces that caught the eye were a haunting portrait of the ill-fated Harry Clarke by his wife and a great portrait of Jack Yeats by Lilian Davidson.