Robert Ballagh, a Dublin artist renowned for his portraits of Irish literary and historical figures, is “ashamed and profoundly depressed” that Irish galleries and museums are closed en masse this summer, he told the Irish Independent.
Ballagh said he’d heard complaints from American tourists and a Canadian fan that all their attempts to view Irish art were met with closed doors.
“Their attempts to soak up Irish cultural life had been unsuccessful to say the least,” he told the Independent.
The tourists in question found that both the James Joyce Martello tower and the home of George Bernard Shaw were closed, which Failte Ireland stated was due to staff and budget cuts.
“They described most of the National Gallery as being closed,” Ballagh said of his American acquaintances, “along with several rooms in the Huge Lane Gallery. I’m glad they didn’t bother going out to the Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham because that’s closed too. At the point I met them, they were returning from Galway where they had found the Nora Barnacle Museum closed too.”
The Museum of Modern Art told the Independent it is closed for renovation, not because of budget cuts, and that some of its collection can be viewed at Earlsfort Terrace. The National Gallery said that its historic wings would be closed for refurbishment for the next three years.
Ballagh’s own portrait of Noel Browne, the late Health Minister, is not on show at the National Gallery due to space shortages, the Gallery confirmed. The painting is part of Ireland’s National Portrait Collection.
The Hugh Lane Gallery is closed under staff shortages, the Independent found.
Ballagh’s outrage stemmed from what he said was political leaders’ “hypocrisy.”
“I know arts funding is not a big issue for people struggling to put food on the table but we are talking about the soul of the nation,” he told the Independent.