New online gallery launched to showcase Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft

Posted 28.09.16

Over 100 works acquired under the joint purchase scheme between the National Museum of Ireland and the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland now presented online

Madeline Shirt Dress (Jennifer Rothwell); Circulus (Isobel Egan);
Koi Table (Zelouf+Bell); Psyche (Claire Curneen)

The National Museum of Ireland (NMI) and the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) today launched a new online presence for the Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft. The initiative aims to provide Irish and international audiences the opportunity to view over 100 works of exceptional quality, skill and artistry acquired since 2004 under a joint purchase scheme between DCCoI and NMI.

The joint purchase scheme was established to collect contemporary high-quality works from Ireland’s leading designer-makers for the NMI to preserve for future generations. All acquisitions made under the scheme are now available to view in an online gallery jointly hosted on the websites of NMI, and DCCoI’s PORTFOLIO programme,

The new web presence was officially launched at the NMI – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks at a reception attended by many of the Irish designers and makers whose work has been acquired for the Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft since it was first established. The launch also coincided with the opening of an exhibition of four recent acquisitions for the collection, showcasing work by ceramic artists Isobel Egan and Claire Curneen; fashion designer Jennifer Rothwell; and furniture makers Zelouf+Bell.

The new exhibition of selected works from the Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft at Collins Barracks presents:

  • Circulus, a newly commissioned porcelain sculpture (2016, approx. 65cm in diameter) by Isobel Egan
  • Psyche (2013, 41cm x 33cm), a hand-built ceramic torso influenced by heavily ornate Japanese porcelain by Claire Curneen
  • Koi Table (2011, 40cm x 90cm x 90cm), made from bog oak inlaid with natural, bleached and dyed woods with a hand-rubbed high gloss lacquer finish by Zelouf+Bell
  • Madeline Shirt Dress, a silk dress digitally printed with a design based on the figure of Madeline from Harry Clarke’s Eve of St. Agnes Window (2016, 97cm) by Jennifer Rothwell

Raghnall Ó Floinn, Director of the National Museum of Ireland, said: “This partnership with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, collecting work by emerging Irish artists, lies at the heart of the Museum’s remit to foster, promote, preserve and display for the future the finest in Irish design. It builds on a tradition of over a century of collecting contemporary decorative arts and now made accessible to all through the website. It reflects the aims of the Government’s recently-published draft framework policy Culture 2025 – Éire Ildánach to foster creativity, encourage collaboration between cultural bodies and enable access to our collections through digitisation.”

Karen Hennessy, Chief Executive of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, said: “Supporting designers and makers and increasing visibility of their work is central to everything we do at DCCoI. Through our long-standing joint purchase scheme with the National Museum of Ireland, a living archive has been created of the best of contemporary Irish design and craft. This high-end work across a range of disciplines will be the coveted collectibles and antiques of the future and the introduction of this online presence for the Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft will allow audiences around the world to view and learn more about the acquired pieces, and the designers and makers behind the beautiful work.”

The exhibition of work acquired for the Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft is located on the ground floor of the National Museum, Collins Barracks between the west and north blocks, and continues until August 2017.

The Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft is one of several partnership projects initiated by the NMI and DCCoI. The joint purchase scheme was set up following discussions between the two organisations in 2003 about establishing an annual purchase fund to enhance collecting by the museum of Irish contemporary design and craft, and the first purchases were made the following year. While jointly acquired, the work remains under the ownership and care of the National Museum of Ireland.

In November, DCCoI and NMI will jointly host Mise Éire? Shaping a Nation through Design, a two-day conference as part of the 2016 centenary programme at Collins Barracks. The conference will explore the expression of collective and national identity in Ireland through the lens of design and craft, featuring contributions from academics, designers, makers and curators, with key note addresses delivered by acclaimed author and ceramic artist Edmund de Waal and leading Irish sociologist Prof. Tom Inglis.

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Tara Walsh - Igbokwe -



About the Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft
The Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft was established in 2003 to collect contemporary high-quality works from Ireland’s leading designer-makers for the NMI to preserve tomorrow’s antiques for future generations. The national collection is jointly funded by the NMI and the DCCoI. Work is selected by NMI curators with advice from DCCoI so as to complement and enhance the NMI’s existing collection of Ireland’s portable heritage. Such a joint purchase fund is of great benefit to the artists whose work is acquired, in addition to the resulting status associated with inclusion in the collection of the National Museum. A selection of objects, acquired through the fund, is now on display at the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History and includes examples of the best of Irish ceramics, glass, furniture, wood turning, jewellery, accessories and silverware. To date 105 pieces have been purchased from 77 makers across all of the above categories, including work from John ffrench, Maria Van Kesteren, Úna Burke and Joseph Walsh. While not all of the work acquired is on permanent display at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, a large proportion is on exhibition in one of these four galleries on-site: 

About the four designer makers featured in the new exhibition at Collins Barracks

Claire Curneen - Originally from Kerry, Curneen is senior lecturer at the Centre for Ceramic Studies, Cardiff Metropolitan University. In 2012 she became the recipient of the Creative Wales Ambassador Award from the Arts Council of Wales, using the title: ‘The Museum Object as a point of Reference’. Following this announcement, Curneen made several research visits to the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks where she had access to the 30,000 ceramic objects that are part of the Art and Industry Division (decorative arts, design and history department) of the National Museum.

Jennifer Rothwell - Fashion designer Jennifer Rothwell graduated from the National College of Art and Design with honours in 1995, and has worked at Norma Kamali, Katayone Adeli, Calvin Klein, Language and Yigal Azrouel. In 2011, Jennifer was cast as a judge on Norway’s Top Model TV programme, providing a great showcase for the best of Irish design. The following awards have recognised Jennifer Rothwell's achievements in fashion: Brown Thomas Designer Award at Dublin Fashion Week in 2007 and New Product Award at the Showcase Expo in 2010.

Isabel Egan - Isobel Egan creates delicate ceramic porcelain works. Using paper-thin shards of material, she constructs miniscule environments – abstracted rooms, cities and houses. Citing the theory of Phyllis Richardson on architecture and Peter Gray on psychology, as well as Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space as inspirations, her structures explore the fragility of life, personal space and memory. Egan graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 2005 with an MA in Ceramics.

Zelouf+Bell - Zelouf+Bell and their team of master craftsmen have been making one-off and limited edition museum-quality furniture to commission since 1992, exporting worldwide. Their work is grounded in practicality and guided by meticulous attention to detail suggesting a dialogue between modern art, contemporary design and history. Zelouf+Bell garnered two awards at the Architectural Digest Show 2015: Best Decorative Accessory by IFDA (International Furnishing and Design Association) and Best Overall Craftsmanship by Adorno Magazine. Based in Co. Laois, they also have a showroom in Dublin.

About the National Museum of Ireland
As a national cultural institution, the National Museum of Ireland has a unique responsibility for the natural history of Ireland and for the rich material culture of its peoples. It plays a central role as a source of education and knowledge of Ireland’s culture and natural history and of its relationship to the wider world, making its collections available to audiences at home and abroad. The Museum has achieved record breaking numbers of over 1 million visitors to their four sites since the start of 2016. Not only is this the 6th consecutive year that the Museum has attracted over 1 million visitors, but it is also the first time this figure has been reached as early as the first week in September; it represents a cumulative increase of 16% on same period last year and is ahead of visitor trends from Fáilte Ireland. Free Admission.

About the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland
The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) is the main champion of the design and craft industry in Ireland, fostering its growth and commercial strength, communicating its unique identity and stimulating quality design, innovation and competitiveness. DCCoI's activities are funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. DCCoI currently has 64 member organisations and over 3,200 registered clients. In collaboration with partner organisations, DCCoI convened Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) on behalf of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Enterprise Ireland. ID2015 was a year-long programme exploring, promoting and celebrating Irish design through signature events on the island of Ireland as well as in prestigious partner venues in international capitals of design and commerce throughout 2015.  

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