Your arts and culture guide to Dublin
Dublin – the city of mythology, philosophy, and romance. A town for thinkers, as much as a city for talkers and the birth (and resting) place of some of the most notorious freedom fighters, writers, poets, actors and artist rebels. From the mesmerising abstract expressionism of Jack B Yeats in the National Gallery, to the celebration of unsung literary voices in the Library Project, Dublin is a stage for the arts, heralding its past leaders, whilst making room for new explorers. If a trip is on the cards, you are in no finer company to explore these creative hubs of the city that Dublin welcomes all visitors to enjoy. Here is our list of must-visits that will leave you understanding Joyce when he said When I die Dublin will be written in my heart.
The Winding Stair
An institution, The Winding Stair is as much an emblem on the Dublin skyline as Christchurch Cathedral and the Guinness factory. An ode to the WB Yeats poem of the same name, the Winding Stair was a meeting place for writers, artists and musicians. With the introduction of the restaurant on the top floor, it has adapted to allow us to consume award winning Irish heritage-inspired cuisine alongside brilliant literature.
A leader in contemporary art and photography, the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) is dedicated to affirming and challenging the public’s appreciation and understanding of the visual arts. From the unsettling beauty of Richard Mosse’s war-torn photographs and the marine-morphic sculptures of Dorothy Cross, to Eamonn Doyle’s photographic studies of the elderly, the RHA strives to present a reflective cross-section of Ireland’s leading figures. Funded by the Arts Council, the RHA is a leader in support of the artist, education and advocacy of contemporary visual expression. Tucked off the main city park Stephen’s Green, it is best to visit on a Sunday afternoon.
The National Gallery of Ireland
Ireland’s national art collection is housed in the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI), allowing visitors to be enthralled at Jack B Yeats’ paintings or marvel at the brilliance of Caravaggio’s The Taking Of Christ – one of his most moving works. The modernist entrance on Nassau Street is a complementary match for the classical architecture of the traditional entrance facing the wonderful Merrion Square. With brilliant curators circulating a strong selection of shows, The NGI ensures it stays relevant and exciting for an audience that is constantly changing. Be sure to pay a visit to the painting Meeting On The Turret Stairs by the Irish artist Frederick William Burton: the romance of it all summarises a lot about the intimacy of Ireland and it has topped the polls as Ireland’s favourite painting.
The Library Project
Not only is Temple Bar the historic centre of Dublin, it is teeming with as many gallery spaces as there are pubs, signalling its position as a key creative zone for the city. One of these spaces you’ll find on its main street is The Library Project, a self-proclaimed spot ‘for visual culture and critical thinking’. A multidisciplinary celebration of publications both big and niche, as well as photographers both established and emerging. There are often events held here to showcase the new or to affirm the vanguard, the magazines and zines for sale give a deserving spotlight to local talent, such as Junior, alongside well-loved covers such as FOAM, Purple Magazine and Sleek. Check this space out on a Thursday, as there may be a launch party happening.
Founded in 1984, the Lilliput Press is one of Ireland’s most celebrated publishing houses representing author heavyweights such as James Joyce, John Moriarty and J.P. Donleavy, alongside new talents such as Donal Ryan, Rob Doyle and Elske Rahill. Tucked into Stoneybatter, one of the neighbourhoods north of the river Liffey favoured by the creative set, Lilliput Press is a pioneer in the revitalisation of the district, heralding the introduction of a swathe of independent businesses to the area.
IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art
It is hard to quantify the impact IMMA has held on the city, with its grounds hosting the likes of performances by Patti Smith, Kim Gordon and Nick Cave, the unmatchable Lucien Freud collection and the brilliantly global contemporary art that has been on show. IMMA has counted Wolfgang Tillmans, the Irish abstractionist Mary Swanzy and the Brazilian neo-concrete movement leader Helio Oiticica as past solo exhibitionists – stand-out shows that bridge a global awareness with a responsibility to educate, inspire and interrogate.
The current showcase A Vague Anxiety spotlights the broad concerns of Generation Y, while a landmark exhibition exploring the connections between Lucien Freud and Jack B Yeats further highlights the importance IMMA imparts of celebrating the past alongside the present.