Irish Museum of Modern Art – Celebrating 30 Years

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The Irish Museum of Modern Art IMMA, celebrates 30 years of existence this year.  The celebratory exhibition is: The Narrow Gate of the Here and Now -30 years of the global contemporary.  It is a museum-wide exhibition showcasing the IMMA collection to celebrate 30 years of IMMA. It opened in July and will run into 2022. 

IMMA is home to the national collection of modern and contemporary art with over 3,500 artworks from Irish and international artists. Each year, new and important works are added to the collection. 

A Royal Hospital

It is housed in one of the most historical building from the 17th century, the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham.  Built in 1680 by English royal command, it is the oldest classical building in Ireland. The design was based on Les Invalides in Paris. 

Cor-ten Steel by Bernar Venet, 2008

It was built to house and look after retired and wounded soldiers, from as far back as the Battle of the Boyne (1690). In 1922, the Royal Hospital was handed over to the Irish Free State and the residents moved to Chelsea Royal Hospital in London. 

From 1930-1950 it was the headquarters of the Garda (Police) service.  Over the next 30 years it fell into disrepair. In 1980 the then Taoiseach, (Prime Minister) Charles J. Haughey approved plans to renovate it and it took four years and cost IR£3 million.    

IMMA founded in 1991

In 1991 it became the home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and is a very interesting place to visit. The grounds cover 48 acres, laid out in walled formal gardens and informal walks and meadows.  

There is a wide range of events on throughout the year, not just the principal exhibitions. It includes talks, tours, performances, screenings, workshops, and events for children. Many of the events are free; see the calendar here. The Royal Hospital also hosts occasions like international conferences, awards ceremonies, gala events and weddings too.  

Cor-ten Steel by Bernar Venet, 2008

The grounds are a delight to explore with extraordinary sculptural pieces scattered around. The gardens are laid out in a formal geometric-style designs, with borders of flowering blooms and espaliered fruit trees along the stone walls. 

 A meadow for sunny days

Parts of the grounds have been allowed to return to meadow and there are some grassy places to sit on a sunny day. On the grounds of the Royal Hospital is the cemetery of Bully’s Acre, the oldest graveyard in Dublin. It dates from more than 1,000 years ago. It is believed that the remains of Brian Boru’s son and grandson were buried here, after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

Formal Gardens with Huston South Quarter in background

Royal Hospital is also a venue for concerts and many well-known artistes have played here including Leonard Cohen, Blur, Kodaline and Patti Smith to name a few.  

The museum is open to the public again and people are asked to book in advance. There is no entry charge, but donations are always welcome. The tours have not yet returned, but will as soon as the final Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. There is a café and food trucks at the Royal Hospital. Toilet facilities are also available. When you next visit Dublin it is well worth the short trip from the city to explore this extraordinary place, imma.ie. 

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