A relative oasis of tranquillity, Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance commemorates Ireland’s patriotic dead and provides some uplift in a benighted north inner city. Even if one has to step over half a dozen heroin addicts on the way there, through a city fast becoming one giant Airbnb, the garden at least grants some solace to its visitors.
Central to the Gardens is the piece depicting the transformation of the Children of Lir by Irish sculptor Oisín Kelly. Commissioned in 1966 for the half centenary of the Easter Rising, the sculptor highlights themes of national resurrection and the intersection of mythological archetypes that underlined the the force of will that was the Rising. Crafted at the time when the 26 county state still paid lip service to the Fenianism that created it, the monument and garden itself stands in defiance of a now globalist Dublin that wishes to decouple itself from the Gaelicism of its past.
In lieu of a national aesthetic, Irish public art has descended into a carnivalesque quango, typified by the decision by the Central Bank to commission a €300,000 piece by London-based artist Eva Rothschild. Located at their new North Wall Quay premises, the announcement came on the back of a competition to find a fitting design.
In a communique, the Bank described how the piece titled “Double Rainbow” would in their words “benefit the local community” and ”enhance the public realm of the Docklands”. A quick scan of the alleged designs reveals a rather babyish and totally meaningless piece, typical of what we’ve come to expect from public artworks in this country.
Consisting of two rainbow coloured sticks, going by designs alone it would have been rejected as your son or daughter’s transition year art project. However limited my artistic education might be, there is no conceivable way that I or any ordinary Dublin citizen could be convinced into thinking “Double Rainbow” merits a space on our city streets, let alone at our expense.
The ecosystem of Irish public art seems to be an incestuous space, overly credentialed and bloated through use of the public purse. Gone are the days when we could indulge in artwork rooted in the historic or cultural experience of the Irish people, instead we must endure publicly funded vandalism with the perpetrators forcing us to pay.
The broader artistic merit of Eva Rothschild can be left to the reader themselves. Her work in the TATE Britain should in my mind be evidence enough of her incapacity for the project.
“Double Rainbow” will no doubt conform to the zeitgeist of our time and the zeitgeist of Dublin in 2019. A colourful distraction from an increasingly deracinated city governed over by clueless overpaid technocrats, and remade in the image of the corporations who lord over it.
As family formation is made impossibly expensive for a generation of Irish people, with the number of dead homeless people continuing to pile up on Dublin’s city streets, and whilst property prices are massively inflated through mass immigration, at least Dubliners will have the spectre of Ms Rothschild’s work to comfort them.
To put the cost of the proposed sculptor in perspective the average starting salary for a nurse or midwife is approximately €24,850 per year according to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). With a headline price tag of €300,000, Rothschild’s “Double Rainbow” sculpture (assuming it does not cost more) will cost the equivalent of more than 12 nurses’ salaries.
That is not to say that public art should be scrapped, but it should be aimed at uplifting the general public and honouring the nation’s history. What we appear to have on our hands is a system that incentivises bland monstrosities, paid for with funds that would otherwise go towards the state’s revenue, and resulting in the poor eyeballs that will be forced to witness them on their daily commute.
Under revised criteria for the “Per Cent for Art” funding scheme we may see enhanced finance for similar public art installations around the country. Currently a percent of costs involved with a capital expenditure project is ring fenced for art installations. This looks likely to be scaled up under proposals by Culture Minister Jospha Madigan, meaning the Irish cityscape may be flooded with yet more “Double Rainbows”.
The same year Kelly’s Children of Lir sculpture was unveiled, Dublin witnessed the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar by a group of Irish republicans. Titled “Operation Humpty Dumpty” the explosion was partially pinned on the veteran republican activist Liam Sutcliffe, who was subsequently arrested and released. While in no way advocating violence, this author would implore Dubliners to meditate on our city’s history of artistic iconoclasm against those who would have Dublin as just another patch in a globalist empire, British or otherwise.