Irish universities keep artwork from public display

Trinity refused to disclose the artwork they keep from public display

Multiple Irish Universities have admitted to keeping “highly valued” works of art out of public view. A freedom of information request led to some of the country’s top third level institutions listing the paintings and sculptures that are not available to the public. 

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) was a notable exception to this, claiming an exemption to the freedom of information request under laws on the grounds of security and refusing to disclose details of their collection.

Victoria Butler, assistant secretary, stated: “the public interest is better served, as is the safety of the college community, the collections, and college buildings, by refusing this request” due to the “national and international cultural significance” of the art Trinity does not display to the public. 

Butler continued, stating: “The university is committed to displaying artworks in as many appropriate locations as possible, noting that some pieces of the collection may not be on display at certain times due to conservation works or building refurbishment works.” 

NUI Galway listed 20 works that are unavailable to the public, including paintings by Walter Osborne, Basil Blackshaw, and Patrick Scott. Many of these are kept in the University library and in buildings which are only accessible to staff and students. 

A spokesperson for the college said that they wish to share their collection “As widely as possible with the community”, but that this was not possible in certain areas of the university due to lack of public access. The spokesperson also mentioned security as a factor determining accessibility to their collection of artwork. 

University College Dublin (UCD) admitted to only keeping Imogen Stewart’s sculpture Pangur Bán from public access. UCD is working with the Office of Public Works to transfer the sculpture to Áras an Uachtairáin. The majority of the university’s most valuable works are available to the public as part of the National folklore Collection. 

University of Limerick (UL) also said that the only highly valued work kept from the public was an eight-foot outdoor sculpture called Vertical Growth.

Dublin City University (DCU) stated that only one highly valued artwork is kept away from public display, but refused to reveal details of the work for security reasons

Security was given by most of the universities as the reason for these works being withheld. 

The Irish Times pointed to the fact that these Universities were all publicly funded, receiving €1.7 billion from the Irish Government annually.

Patrick Coyle

Patrick Coyle is a News Analysis Editor for Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister student of English Literature and Spanish.