In July, Ireland enjoyed for the first time ever a museum space solely dedicated to Photography, right in its capital, inside Dublin Castle grounds and with the support of The Office of Public Works. It was delivered as part of PhotoIreland Festival 2019, and it became the first instalment of a very ambitious project created by the PhotoIreland Foundation.
Though sounding like a large organisation, this foundation is capably run by two hard-working individuals, Angel Luis Gonzalez and Julia Gelezova, with the help at times of a team of volunteers. Ten years after their first festival, we are now well used to their creativity when it comes to cultural projects: The Library Project, Halftone, Greetings From Ireland, How to Flatten a Mountain, The Critical Academy… they are always pushing an engagement with photography “in a way the country hasn’t seen before”, as Una Mullaly succinctly put it a while back. Their hard work is recognised abroad too, and it is not by chance that this organisation is the Irish representative in not one but two excellent European platforms of Photography, Futures and Parallel.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography of Ireland presented a balanced and well-thought-out programme around four exhibitions that purposely involved individuals from both established and emerging backgrounds, local and international, with guest-curated and panel-selected works, delivering a meaningful, broad, and invigorating view of this discipline today.
The programme included an exhibition nurtured and developed in the framework of the Parallel platform, formulated by emerging curator Seda Yildiz (TR), with works by Cihad Caner (TR), Dries Lips (BE), Róisín White (IE) and Jessica Wolfelsperger (CH). The Tokyo International Photography Competition Showcase offered 8 varied practices originating in countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, South Africa, Germany, Italy, and Finland. Independent Dutch curator Hester Keijser proposed visitors a striking way to enjoy the larger than life works of French Lebanesse artist Nadim Asfar, three leporellos of more than 20 meters each, carefully extended over three rows of tables, over which Nadim’s personal reflections were placed as typewritten noted. New Irish Works, PhotoIreland Foundation’s triennial project looking for relevant practices in Ireland, emphasised a healthy diversity with gathered works by ten selected artists: Aisling McCoy, Cian Burke, Dorje de Burgh, George Voronov, Jamin Keogh, Phelim Hoey, Robert Ellis, Róisín White, Sarah Flynn, and Zoe Hamill.
The exhibitions were complemented with a dozen of events, talks, workshops, presentations, and book launches, of which worth noting was the symposium ‘Photography and the Museum’ that looked at the past, present, and future with personalities such as photo-historian Eléonore Challine (University of Paris, Sorbonne-Pantheon), Alison Nordström (Independent Photography Curator and ex-Senior Curator of Photographs at George Eastman House) and Marco De Mutiis (Digital Curator at Fotomuseum Winterthur). Indeed this temporary museum space called for everyone to participate in thinking collectively around this project, not only at the symposium and various talks, but also alongside the gallery spaces, where a series of questions were posed for visitors to answer: What is the function of a museum? How could a museum support Photography? Does Ireland need a museum of Photography? Have you been to other Photography Museums? Is it worth paying in for Visual Arts exhibitions? If you want to know what visitors said, the results of this participatory process will be published in PhotoIreland Foundation’s forthcoming journal, entitled OVER, expected to be launched next November at The Library Project in Temple Bar.
It is motivating to know that the museum project will run as a fixture every year during July as part of PhotoIreland Festival, eventually becoming a fully fledged museum space in the not so distant future, and experimenting along the way with more ambitious participatory installations. For a country where there is no National centre for Photography, this new museum is certainly a welcome addition to the cultural landscape, one that will contribute to the work done by the National Museums and galleries with PhotoIreland Foundation demonstrating international ambition and captivating excitement around the discipline.