Following a period of extensive refurbishment and modernisation, the National Gallery of Ireland's historic Dargan and Milltown wings reopened to the public on Thursday 15 June 2017.
This multimillion-euro refurbishment project has been carried out by the Office of Public Works' Project Management Services, with architects Heneghan Peng as the Design Team Leaders. The project is co-funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the Office of Public Works.
The refurbished galleries feature an entirely new presentation of the celebrated permanent collection, featuring paintings by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Ruisdael, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, Monet, Gris and Picasso. The Gallery will also display its prestigious collection of Irish art with works by Daniel Maclise, Roderic O'Conor, John Lavery, William Orpen, Seán Keating, Gerard Dillon, Evie Hone, Norah McGuinness, Jack B. Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and William Scott.
Central to the modernisation work of the 19th-century buildings has been the construction of a state-of-the-art underground energy centre housing vital services for the entire Gallery. Original nineteenth-century architectural features and spaces are revealed and majestic windows now open onto a spacious light-filled courtyard created by Heneghan Peng. This new courtyard dramatically enhances visitors' orientation between the historic Dargan and Milltown wings. It is also the site for a dramatic sculpture, Magnus Modus, by Joseph Walsh, commissioned by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the National Gallery of Ireland under the Per Cent for Art Scheme.
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, was joined by the Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohue TD, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, to perform the official opening of the newly refurbished National Gallery of Ireland on Merrion Square on Wednesday June 14th.
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD:
"Over 150 years after its establishment, the National Gallery has grown into an institution of international renown and a building of significant cultural importance to Ireland. I am delighted that today, my last official duty as Taoiseach is to officially open the stunningly refurbished Dargan and Milltown Wings, which combines the historical origins of the National Gallery with its vision for the future, and will ensure the utility and beauty of this national resource for generations to come.
"It is appropriate that we here today to honour and celebrate our National Gallery and our national collections in this time where culture is coming to the fore of our minds in the context of the fantastic work being done through the Creative Ireland programme. There is a continued and growing recognition that culture is what we are and what we need to focus on as a diverse, creative, multi-cultural, welcoming and forward-looking society. We have evolved from a land of Saints and Scholars to a land of Culture and Creativity. I look forward to the newly restored National Gallery of Ireland being recognised as one of Europe's foremost cultural institutions."
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD:
"This completed project represents the largest single refurbishment of the National Gallery since it first opened its doors in 1864. The National Gallery can now take its place among the world's finest galleries, with expanded exhibition space and international quality standards to safeguard its collections. The refurbishment of the Milltown and Dargan wings has not only increased the exhibition space, it has also allowed for the protection and preservation of the historic building itself, and I have no doubt that it will prove enormously popular with members of the public and visiting tourists.
"The National Gallery of Ireland is an essential partner in the Creative Ireland Programme, which commits to further investment in our cultural institutions in the years ahead. Creative Ireland aims to promote individual, community and national wellbeing through cultural engagement. The newly expanded and refurbished National Gallery will house some of the finest international and Irish art and I hope, particularly through its engagement and outreach programmes, it will be a home of learning and a source of inspiration for the next generation of young Irish artists."
The period of refurbishment also allowed for an extensive survey of the Gallery's permanent collection. More than 450 works have undergone conservation and research. The most spectacular of these is Daniel Maclise's The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife (1854), which, after an ambitious conservation and research project, supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has been preserved for future generations and returned to the elegant surrounds of the Shaw Room in the Dargan Wing."