Assumpta O’Shaughnessy ventures into the high society of Dublin’s Art World
Despite art’s reputation as an elitist area, I have always considered it to be an equal opportunity sort of thing. Granted we can’t all afford to indulge in this interest to the same extent as, say, film and music, but with the insane number of variations in art from Michelangelo to Damien Hirst, and widespread free gallery admission, one would think there would be something for everyone.
However, stereotypes must evolve from somewhere and a recent trip to the opening of the National Gallery’s new exhibition on Finnish Art was a somewhat thrilling investigation into the upper-echelons of the Dublin Art world.
My friend Genevieve volunteered to accompany me on the adventure. It was a cold and frosty Friday night when we set off, heading for the modern section of the Gallery on Clare Street only a short walking distance from the Pav. After having our invitation scrutinised by the initially gruff security guards, we walked into the cavernously ceilinged room, lit with coloured spotlights and rotating stars, to discover that not only did we seem the youngest attendees by about 10 years, we were also the only two not dressed in black tie – a situation that, after the first few minutes, we found quite amusing as we incurred the unsure looks of the other guest who seemed to wonder how we had managed to sneak in. Guests around us varied from tiny little old ladies in sequined black flapper dresses to very fashionable-looking youngish couples proving their trendy credentials and reminding me more than a little of the gallery openings frequently featured in Sex and the City, where the young and beautiful come to play. Or at least I think that was the idea they were going for anyway.
In honour of the opening, a Finnish vodka company provided cosmopolitan cocktails and very large vodka tonics complete with slices of blood orange. Attracted by the pretty colours, we queued up to indulge ourselves just as the first of many speeches began, vaguely regretting the fact that neither of us had eaten since that morning. After listening to the curators of both the Irish and Finnish National Galleries, we became a little restless and began to chat, in a low voice, about the room and the event, only to be shushed loudly from behind by a middle-aged woman who apparently could not hear for the tenth time how proud the speaker was to be here.
Deciding a quick break was necessary and exchanging a few friendly words with the security guards, we retreated outside for a few minutes only to have former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn brush past us on his hurried way out.
Having still not seen any art at this point in the evening, we decided to venture upstairs to the Millennium Wing where the exhibition was housed, only to be told that bags, coats and drinks were not allowed. This then required a lot of vodka and tonic to be consumed far too quickly than was good for us. The exhibition itself (look out for the full review in the next issue of tn2) was crowded with people, some looking intently at paintings alone, others in little gaggles making insightful and ridiculous comments in turn. We wandered contentedly through the years of Finnish history and wondered aloud at some of the pieces.
Our evening of high society nearly over, we were admiring some interesting woodblock prints at the end of the exhibition when Genevieve suddenly grabbed my arm and gestured silently down the hall. Turns out I was wrong about us being the only exceptions to the formal dress code. Striding towards us was a woman, probably in her early to mid-thirties, wearing the teeniest tiniest shorts I had ever seen complete with steel grey tights and legwarmers. Her defiant “look at me” strut was enough to cause Genevieve and myself to burst into barely controlled giggles, which were then redoubled when we returned downstairs to see the same woman posing – how do I put this delicately – slightly erotically for I am sure what she considered the benefit of all hot blooded men in the room (by my count there was at least three of them).
With a final thank you and goodbye to the now very friendly security guards, we left our venture and headed to the more comfortable and relaxed atmosphere of the Pav. High Dublin society is all well and good, but I think I will leave it to the regulars for the next twenty years or so.